Equal Access to Broadband for Online Learning

Problem Statement

Inequality in broadband access hindering learning through digital avenues has been widely reported.  But, do Americans care?  Do Americans agree this is a problem and want it solved? 

Our Research

In partnership with Luntz Global, we asked 1,000 likely voters across the political spectrum on this issue and here is what we found.  In summary, voters agreed strongly that the government should provide all U.S. students equal access to broadband access in facilitation of their education. 

We also learned communication about the current digital learning matters.  Americans strongly favor talking about the current COVID-19 driven learning environment as “online learning” (56%) as compared to “remote learning” (25%) and “distance learning” (18%). 

Below are some interesting nuances found in the answers.  

Should providing all U.S. students with reliable high-speed internet access be a priority, when Congress decides on the people and institutions to rebuild following the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic? Agreement that Internet Access is “High”, “Low,” or “Not a Priority:”

High Priority71
Low Priority25
Not a Priority4
  • “Students from all corners of the U.S. – in urban, suburban, small town and rural school districts – should have equal access to reliable high-speed internet at home in order to close the educational gap created by different socio-economic backgrounds.”
  • “With the U.S. lagging internationally in educating our young people, we need to ensure every U.S. student has access to reliable, high-speed internet access at home.”
  • “Because of COVID-19, U.S. students needed internet access at home to attend class and complete assignments. It is now a necessity for millions of students to have a reliable high-speed internet connection at home to receive proper instruction.”

We also asked if providing equal access to reliable broadband a priority if it that also allows for parents to work from home, access professionally develop as well as giving the whole family access to tele-medicine.  

Agreement that Internet Access is Priority, When Additional Benefits Provided to Family:

High Priority69
Low Priority31

Having observed a consensus on the existence of the problem, we asked what Americans would be willing to give in order to solve this problem.  

As it relates to federal and state funding, the surveyed population was split along party lines whereas all other questions asked of our 1000 likely voters were in strong agreement across party lines:

Swing Voters7311

Use of Federal Funds to Provide Broadband Access:

Swing Voters729

Our colleagues at the Connected Cities and Inclusive Growth project led by USC Annenberg and USC Price also conducted research from a policy perspective and reached similar conclusions on the urgency of the needs and widespread public support for solutions.

Our Conclusion

We must facilitate online learning by providing equal broadband access to all U.S. students while the U.S. continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging our global world. This is not only an electoral winner, but an immediate imperative to implement.