Education Matters: Billions of Broadband Investments Could Close the Digital Divide Fueled by the Pandemic


FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – California Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing to spend $ 7 billion on broadband infrastructure. The funding could help connect thousands of homes currently without reliable internet.

Funding cannot come soon enough for students who depend on Internet service.

West Fresno County is an area where there is little or no Internet access. Not having that connection became a matter of course when schools had to switch to distance learning.

“They all went online from day one to do distance education. What happened that morning here in Coalinga, the internet went down, ”said Dr Stuart Van Horn, district chancellor of West Hills Community College.

Dr Stuart Van Horn says the pandemic has highlighted the inequalities that exist in education for many students.

“It has just been exacerbated here because it illustrates the shortcomings that we have ignored as a state and a nation in providing equitable resources to all students in the state.”

Students love Frances Reyes.

“When it all went virtual, the first thing I thought about was, Oh my God, what am I going to do,” Reyes said.

Reyes, a student in the pharmacy program at California Health Sciences University, says her family could never afford internet service, so Reyes got away with it in the best possible way.

“The Internet is not necessarily something I have access to, but I have access to it at school, in cafes, in the library. “

When the pandemic closed these public places, Reyes said she didn’t know what to do.

“Everything stopped. Libraries no longer had access to it and so I panicked a bit, panicked a bit.

The students had to scramble to try to find an Internet solution. Veronica Mendez-Garcia is a student at Fresno Pacific University. She is also a farmer and gets up at 3 a.m. to go to work. She logged in to her class from the fields.

“My first class didn’t start until 7.45 am and once it hit 7.40 am I would just run to wash my hands, grab my backpack and my laptop, sit at one of the tables where we usually had lunch, and just do my lessons.

Stories of students connecting where and when they could during the pandemic forced officials to finally face the digital divide. Broadband financing is offered at both national and state level.

“So many elected officials, so many civic leaders understand that there is no turning back,” said Sunne McPeak of the California Emerging Technology Fund. “This digital equity is the civil law of the 21st century. We have the opportunity with the leadership of the San Joaquin Valley with the state and the federal government to seize this moment and bridge the digital divide. “

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