During a time when students are taking classes online and employers are offering work online, some people in rural areas of the United States still struggle to have high-speed internet. A teacher at a Mississippi high school often has to take time during her day to visit a friend just so that she can gain access to an internet connection that’s reliable. The reason her friend has better internet is that the connection is fiber optic. When schools started closing and students needed to do classes online, the teacher saw that there was a struggle for some students. They didn’t have access to high-speed internet that would allow them to take tests, watch videos, or submit assignments. Most of the issues with connections have been seen in rural areas, such as Leland, Mississippi. Some students stopped attending classes because they didn’t have access to reliable internet services.
Looking Past the Surface
Close to 10% of students in schools across Leland and similar counties simply stopped attending classes. They didn’t have quality internet to connect to their teachers, and some had no internet at all. While there were some stations set up across areas so that students could access the internet, many families weren’t able to reach those points because of transportation or because of working during the day. Teachers are unable to contact many of the students who don’t have access to high-speed internet, so they are unsure what they are doing or how they are doing. They can’t offer the help that’s needed because they don’t know how the students need help.
There are over 40 million people in the country who don’t have access to high-speed internet with Mississippi being in the bottom 10 states. There have been talks by President Biden and his administration about enhancing the infrastructure so that more people have access to internet services. There is support from both parties for expanded broadband, but there are numerous questions about who will pay for the equipment needed for the expansion and exactly how it will work so that more people do have access. Some estimates range from $50,000 to $60,000 for each mile where internet connections are needed. Someone would have to pay for the connections, which could mean an increase in utility bills or an increase in taxes. Some businesses are looking to the federal government for support so that they can offer the expansions that rural areas need, but the government hasn’t agreed quite yet on an amount that it’s willing to pay.
No one should be left behind when it comes to basic internet services. That’s something that the pandemic has revealed. Rural areas need to have similar internet connections that urban areas have so that everyone has the same advantage in order to succeed whether it’s at school or at work. Companies like, TEC and Spectrum internet, wants to help rural areas get connected. This group is comprised of companies that are trying to figure out a way to run the lines and install the equipment that rural areas need for the internet. The group has received federal grants in the past and hopes that it can obtain more grants to get the process started to work with larger companies that have more support and that can handle assisting struggling consumers in Mississippi and other states.