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Internet Access has Become Unaffordable

March 2023

In a previous post, we highlighted problem of digital access, the first of three major obstacles preventing many students and their families from enjoying the full digital connectivity taken for granted in more affluent communities and homes. Today, we’ll look at the second of these obstacles: affordability.

Did you know that the average monthly high-speed internet service for a family starts at $38 a month? This is to say nothing of the one-time service connection fees associated with renting and installing modems and routers. This reality forces many lower-income families in and around Los Angeles to make hard choices that often result in subscribing to base-speed plans that are inadequate for what their students need.

Manuela Lopez, a parent active in The Center for Powerful Public Schools’ parent network, experienced these affordability issues and needed to rely on her daughter, who is a busy college student, to help her search for the most affordable option. Her family was fortunate enough to be able to receive a discounted rate with her daughter through the university she attends, but other K-12 families in similar situations might not be as lucky.

Like many education organizations in our community, we advocate for high-speed Internet service as a basic universal public utility. Imagine a network of hotspots strategically placed throughout under-resourced communities in Los Angeles County that would provide connected devices with high-speed access. This would allay the concerns and headaches faced by many families since the beginning of the pandemic. In the meantime, the Affordable Connectivity Program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a $30 per month benefit to qualifying households to help them afford high-speed internet services. Temporary solutions, however, simply underscore the need for more permanent solutions that will finally bridge the digital divide faced by so many families.

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