New report says: Greatest barrier to internet isn’t broadband but cost | WPLN News

Virtual schools could remain open in Tennessee for at least four more years under a bill being debated. Stephen Chinvia Flickr

Nearly four out of 10 households in Tennessee can’t afford internet according to a new report released on Thursday. The study was conducted by a national nonprofit, Education Super Highway. The group found that the main barrier to internet access isn’t the availability of broadband, but the cost. 

That couldn’t be more true in Nashville. Though 97% of households have access to broadband, less than half actually have a subscription. 

The pandemic has underscored the urgency of this issue, especially for students who still rely on virtual learning this school year. Affordability disproportionately impacts Black and Latino youth.  

Historically, Tennessee has had among the highest number of children lacking both a computer and internet. But officials are optimistic that this year’s influx of federal stimulus money could help address the issue. Not only does the state want to help alleviate costs but also install more areas with free WiFi, like in downtown business districts, schools and libraries.

The federal government is also making its largest effort yet. The Emergency Broadband Benefit will give $50 monthly discounts to help low-income individuals pay for their internet. The program rolled out in May, but as few as 15% of Tennessee households who are eligible have enrolled.  

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