In the early stages of the pandemic, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools created a pilot program called Students Connected, which provides high-speed home internet at no cost to over 400 families in Watts, South LA, and Boyle Heights.
Ensuring students have access to high-speed home internet has been a key priority for us because we want to enable students to complete coursework, stay engaged during hybrid learning, and complete homework and research at home now that they are back in school.
We’ve always set our sights on scaling this pilot beyond our schools (see Bringing Broadband Home), and since June 2021 we have been working with LA Unified’s technology unit to share learnings from our pilot and assist the District in creating its own program to offer free internet to qualifying families throughout Los Angeles.
Now, we are pleased to share that LA Unified has launched its “Every Student Connected” initiative and is already reaching more than a thousand families with broadband internet. The new District program, modeled after our pilot, uses federal funds available through the Emergency Connectivity Fund to contract with two internet service providers to offer free high-speed home internet to qualified families. The sign-up process eliminates many of the barriers that currently exist with internet companies, including high costs, limited broadband speeds, Social Security number verification, and inadequate customer service support.
We expect that as many as 100,000 families will benefit from this District initiative, including the 400 families who participated in our pilot program. And we are continuing to support these and other families in our network. Last month we co-planned with LA Unified a home internet fair at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School (see photo above). The event resulted in over 40 families signing up for District-sponsored high-speed home internet. This was the first connectivity fair of its kind sponsored by LA Unified and we hope to see many more. We know that the District’s program will significantly narrow the gap between those who have adequate internet at home and those who don’t.
Below we share thoughts from LA Unified Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin and LA Unified’s Chief Information Officer Soheil Katal on the importance of internet access for students:
- “During this pandemic, the lack of internet access amongst the District’s highest-need students became a critical barrier for student learning and an obstacle for families’ ability to access essential information. The Partnership’s pilot, which inspired our ‘Closing the Digital Divide to Improve Distance & Hybrid Learning’ resolution, helped pave the way for LA Unified to connect thousands of students and families with stable, affordable broadband internet. As a District, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that every student has quality connectivity to thrive in a digital world.” – LA Unified Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin
- “Every day, technology becomes increasingly central to student learning. Without access to the right tools, connectivity, and support, a student is at a severe disadvantage. We must continue doing everything we can to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.” – LA Unified Chief Information Officer Soheil Katal
The Partnership and LA Unified feel strong momentum and support across the country to close the digital divide. Actions at federal, state, and local levels to make broadband funding available and helping our families access these opportunities are additional steps that will help close the digital divide.
We will continue to do all we can to ensure that every student within LA Unified has quality high-speed home internet to learn both at school and at home.