How To Find High Quality, Affordable Internet Access This School Year



  • Rachel Hanebutt and Catherine Gonzalez are doctoral students in the Research and Community Action Program at Peabody College Vanderbilt.

The “dog ate my homework” excuse may soon be changed to “Wi-Fi was down,” as Tennessee students’ transition to school underscored the importance of digital access. Despite increased funding for broadband access due to COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee ranks below 43 other states on student access to broadband. This limits students, especially young black and brown, in their ability to fully participate in school and complete homework online.

Barriers to Family Internet Access in Nashville

Rachel Hanebutt

Locally97% of Davidson County households have access to broadband subscriptions, but only 48% of households actually have a subscription. Evidence suggests that providing additional subscription options is less effective than direct financial support and improved and long-term broadband benefits to increase broadband adoption, especially when it comes to historically underserved families.

A recent county-wide survey conducted by the Nashville Digital Inclusion Taskforce and researchers at Vanderbilt University found that more than half of Nashville residents think the cost of internet packages is too high and nearly 4 residents believe in 5 said they would enroll in a government program. reduce the cost of their Internet service if it was available. This study also found that 62.5% of the residents sampled indicated that they did not know of low-cost suppliers.

The cost of the subscription is just one of the challenges families face when it comes to digital access. Nationwide, lack of access to devices disproportionately affects low-income students. In terms of digital skills, the Metro Nashville Public Schools Website offers technological support. However, more personalized counseling is needed to connect Tennessee families with resources to connect, stay online, and increase their digital skills.

Laura Boyd, a Spanish teacher at Poplar Grove Middle School, teaches students simultaneously in person and remotely on Tuesday, February 2, 2021.

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The tips below are a starting point – an expanded, printable, plain-language version of this digital access guide (in English and Spanish) are available via

5 digital access tips for families

Catherine gonzalez

1. Find Internet options in your area

Families can use Everyone activated, a website with a tool for selecting available offers based on zip codes and eligibility.

2. Look for free and low cost internet options

This national list free, low-cost Internet programs is a great place to start; additional programs are available from the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion. Pc for people, a non-profit organization under the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, offers reimbursements of up to $ 50 to eligible low-income families.

3. Find free and cheap devices

Families can also benefit from assistance in purchasing Internet-connected devices, such as laptops. Pc for people offers eligible families up to $ 100 toward device reimbursement, and school districts can help low-income families access devices by applying to T-Mobile Tech for TN students before November 1st.

4. Access free digital skills training and how-to

For assistance in the use of technology, the Nashville Public Library offers digital security training, booklets, videos and resources like Internet Essentials from Comcast GCF Global’s online learning center and comprehensive courses give families access to free video tutorials on web browsers, understand URLs and more.

Grade 5 student Travis Jackson works on homework during online school at the Bethlehem Center.  Hamilton County Schools have created virtual learning centers in the community for families who need extra support for online learning, including this one at the Bethlehem Center in the Alton Park neighborhood. in Chattanooga.

5. Resources for bilingual families

GCF Global offers courses in Spanish and Portuguese, and Internet essentials offers training in Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Somali. Spanish speakers can refer to this MNPS guide for more information on connectivity, digital skills, or devices.

Student success cannot begin without connectivity. Families, districts and nonprofits should join an effort to bring affordable broadband, devices and training to Tennessen homes.

Rachel Hanebutt and Catherine Gonzalez are doctoral students in the Research and Community Action Program at Peabody College Vanderbilt.


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