Students need rural internet
I am a 15-year-old rising 10th-grader who lives in southern Albemarle County. I have the good fortune to have teachers who worked tirelessly last spring to make their students’ online school experience the best it could be. Teachers often got online late at night to accommodate our school’s international students who were in different time zones.
A robust online school experience was just a click away — but, unlike classmates living in China and Vietnam, I missed out because I live in a rural area of Virginia where there is limited internet connectivity.
Even before the pandemic, our family knew our internet wasn’t great. When we first moved to our house, we tried the single provider available in our area. Service was spotty and speeds were far below federal broadband standards, so we switched to a cellular connection. Speeds and service improved, but our data is capped and we reach only 40% of the speed needed to meet the high-speed broadband definition.
When the COVID pandemic began, our family worried first about the health and safety of our family, friends and community. Our next concern was how we would all be able to work and learn from home. Mornings began with a review of who would be online, and when, because our connection cannot handle multiple simultaneous video meetings. I often had my video dropped due to poor connectivity, or I had to use audio only. I worried that this made my teachers think I wasn’t trying.
How many people are being penalized for poor work or school performance when the problem is the infrastructure?
Computer science is one of my favorite school subjects, and I am thankful to live in Virginia where there are so many career options in high tech. But why can’t we figure out how to get all of Virginia online? Our state has some of the brightest tech minds in our country — and I bet many students like me would like to be part of that industry someday, if only we could get online now.
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