When WiFi isn’t a utility, how do you create equity?

Growing up I didn’t have WiFi in my house until I was already out of college. While I am quick to jump on the tech train now, I didn’t always have they type of access when I was growing up. Living in an area that didn’t allow for a fast connection and not having a smartphone until I graduated from college put me at a disadvantage at times.

Yet, in 2019, I rarely have to take my phone out of WiFi mode even when driving around the city. Most restaurants, stores, and even my hair dresser has free WiFi. So how does that have an effect on schools? We are pushing kids to do research for projects, use online based learning programs like Zearn, and teaching tools like Google Classroom. But does everyone have WiFi at home? Do these students have a computer?

In our urban district, while WiFi is greatly accessible around the city, do our students have the technology to do what we are looking for them to do? Our district was lucky enough to be accepted into the 1Million Project. Their goal is to help give 1 million students reliable internet within their homes.

While some might think students will just stream on Netflix all day, we have good news for you. Within another project our district was involved in, the Create-A-Thon, students discussed this exact issue of bringing technology home and having access to reliable internet in their house. Out of the sampling of 110 student responses collected from the kids, 90 percent said they would use the computer and internet for homework. 90 percent! That is amazing!

Coming back to the beginning, with WiFi being everywhere, it’s still not accessible to everyone within their homes. My point of all of this is WiFi is now a utility, a basic right for people. I remember this coming up a few years ago in some conversation about why we had different networks fighting to offer service, when it seemed that service was now a basic need for people. Not only is it a basic need at this point to function, but it’s a need for our youth to all be on the same playing field. WiFi as a basic utility is about equity for everyone – giving everyone that access, especially in the case of our students for their education.