Lawmakers working to get broadband internet access to rural areas amid pandemic

Posted at 6:40 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 07:49:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Even though school is wrapping up for many students, the conversation about making education better is far from over. Right now, lawmakers are working to make broadband internet available to everyone to improve at-home schooling.

This issue is highlighting the imbalance many families face when it comes to education. Some 15 million kids across the country either don’t have a device to complete assignments or the internet connection they need to learn online.

Advocates with Common Sense Media are supporting a new bill, dubbed the Emergency Educational Connections Act, to allocate $4 billion for an emergency connectivity fund. This would help schools and libraries distribute laptops, tablets, and even routers or hotshots for learning.

Steven Berry, the president and CEO of the telecommunications group, Competitive Carriers Association, says the money is necessary.

"And I would hate to think that we're going to overlook those areas that could and should and very well need to be connected, because we don't know where they are,” Berry said. “It just boggles my mind that we can't actually focus our resources in the areas that are in most need."

This was one reason why Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Dr. Adrienne Battle did not want to go to fully-online schooling once the pandemic hit. The district has been trying to make that easier by getting companies to offer discounts on internet services for families and letting students check-out laptops for the rest of the school year.

If the bill goes through, the money would only be given during this health emergency.

As for MNPS, they are currently working on a plan for this upcoming school year. While nothing is set in stone yet, Mayor John Cooper is hopeful schools will reopen.