If COVID taught us anything, it’s that we are irrevocably digitally interdependent. Unfortunately, the pandemic revealed deeply-rooted digital inequities that impact many lower-income families in the Los Angeles area. In this blog series, we’ll highlight three such obstacles and provide some recommendations to address the removal of each. Today we’ll focus on the first obstacle: Inequities in digital access.
Julia Sosa, a parent within our parent network at the Center for Powerful Public Schools, reports that when the pandemic hit, her home was not equipped with the kind of Wi-Fi technology needed for her children to make a smooth transition to online learning. For Julia, who prior to March 2020 had been relying on local Wi-Fi hotspots to gain access to the Internet on her mobile device, this abrupt shift was overwhelming and help with reliable access was not forthcoming.
Gabriella Mitchell, also a participant in our parent network, shared similar concerns. But in her case, the pandemic revealed the inconsistency of Internet stability. Even for families who are paying subscribers, the unreliability of these services, over time, erodes their ability to stay connected to the schools.
We know that low-income households, people of color, and immigrants are significantly more likely to have difficulty accessing high quality Internet. One attainable solution is to ensure that our state’s public utilities commission truly prioritizes universal access to high-speed Internet in the places that need it the most. Currently, the California Public Utilities Commission is gathering public comment on its map of priority areas for “last mile” services that would connect the most underserved areas. The issue is that many of the prioritized areas in LA County, enclaves like Malibu and Calabasas, are anything but underserved. We recommend visiting the CPUC site and informing the commission of the areas they ignored on this map, specifically ones that are home to the most under-resourced families and students. Only by using our collective voice can we make digital access universal and truly equitable.