Low-Income Students Struggle With Lack of Internet

Low-income Central Florida students are burdened with many obstacles. One of these main issues is the lack of internet access in their homes. Many of these students’ problems will eventually worsen as schools start to provide their students with electronic devices to complete homework assignments and connect with their teachers.

In 2011 Scarborough Research analysis showed that 11 percent of Florida households with students in school lacked internet access.

Ocoee Middle School Principal, Sharyn Gabriel, says the “digital divide is not because students lack devices, the digital divide stems from the lack of Wi-Fi.” Gabriel equipped her students in October with iPod touches to help them learn English. However, certain students still have the issue of connecting to the internet to use devices.

Eduardo Perez, a 15-year-old student at Lee Middle School says that every time he is assigned an online project, he and his mom have to either go to a family member’s home or drive to the library to find a Wi-Fi area to get online. Because they can’t afford internet access at home, the Perez family scrambles to find hot spots where they can connect and get the homework done.

“It can be difficult for me. Sometimes I go to the school library before classes or try to do my homework and projects at school before coming home because it’s easier,” Eduardo said. His mother is single and unemployed and says that the cost of having internet at home is just too much for her.

In the Scarborough Research analysis, is shows that 9 percent of household in Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne with student in school still don’t have internet access at home.

However, school districts across Florida are doing whatever they can to meet a mandate that requires schools to provide their students with electronic textbooks. These textbooks will be available by 2015.

Director of instructional technology for Orange County Public Schools, George Perrault, says the district works with their students who don’t have internet access, and provides them with computers and other technology at their schools and media centers. Most Central Florida schools offer some form of computer lab that their students can work in to get their assignments done.

Luckily, Bright House Networks is working on a solution for these families. Spokesman Brian Craven says that the telecommunications company and other cable providers will offer high-speed internet access this year for a monthly fee of $9.95 to low-income families. It’s a two-year program that is only eligible for household with students “that receive free lunch under the National School Lunch Program” and for households that don’t subscribe to broadband.

Hopefully with the help of Bright House Networks and local schools, students will feel at ease and have the opportunities to work on their assignments

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