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Libraries are Filling the Homework Gap as Students Head Back to School  

Tue, September 04, 2018

Students heading back to school this fall that lack access to high-speed broadband will continue to rely upon libraries for homework assignments.

Over the past few years, the U.S. has made significant gains in efforts to connect K-12 schools with high-speed broadband connections of 100Mbps per 1000 students.

Unfortunately, students who lack broadband at home are at a significant disadvantage. While there are a number of excellent strategies to resolve this homework gap, American public libraries have been on the front lines and especially helpful for students living in rural areas with limited broadband options or from low-income families unable to pay for service.

Public libraries provide access to research and information needs from professional staff, and serve as gathering spaces and technology hubs. With topics ranging from information literacy to workforce skills, public libraries provide more than 4.7 million programs and continue to provide Internet access with over 290,000 public-access computers.

NTIA’s BroadbandUSA July webinar highlighted examples of libraries working to close this gap. North Carolina is working closely with its state library system to meet the needs of the estimated ten percent of households with school age children that lack broadband access. North Carolina received a grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services to pilot and test a project, which includes hiring a Digital Inclusion Librarian and partnering with up to four local library systems to provide WiFi devices that can be loaned to students.

Preliminary research indicates that innovative library programs, such as mobile hotspot sharing, are helping to address homework gap problems. As vital community anchor institutions, libraries continue to lead the way in supporting local broadband adoption. Connecting remaining rural and Tribal libraries is another important step in ensuring all American students have the technology they need to support learning.

Find out more on the role libraries play in connectivity with our new infographic. If you have questions or would like further information about BroadbandUSA’s work, please contact us at broadbandusa@ntia.doc.gov.