high school students and computers

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it’s good to know that nearly all of Virginia’s 1.3 million public school students attend schools that meet or exceed the Federal Communications Commission’s standard for internet access.

This is a dramatic jump from just five years ago, according to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that describes its mission as “upgrading the internet access in every public school classroom in America.” In 2015, only 46% of Virginia students attended schools meeting the FCC’s short-term goal of providing the minimum bandwidth of at least 100 kilobits per second (Kbps) per student needed to support a one-to-one device-to-student ratio.

“Twenty-first century learning is increasing the demand for broadband,” the association’s 2019 Connectivity Snapshot for Virginia stated. “Schools need to continue to grow their bandwidth to make technology a part of learning in every classroom, every day.”

We agree. However, work remains. Twelve percent of Virginia public school students are meeting the FCC’s long-term bandwidth goal of 1 megabit per second (Mbps), according to the snapshot, compared to 24% nationally. Broadband access is foundational to future student success, both in classrooms and in careers.

“Access to high-speed internet is critical if we want to prepare all of our students to succeed in the new Virginia economy,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement in the snapshot. “Improving the speed at which each student can access the internet while at school is [a] critical next step to ensure that the students of today will become the successful workforce of tomorrow.”

Last month, Northam proposed a sizable increase in state broadband funding to help communities around the state get connected. As he said then, in this century broadband “is a requirement for opportunity, for education, for health care, and for everyday life.” We’ve applauded him and the General Assembly for their past support of expanding broadband access, and hope it continues during this legislative session.

—Pamela Stallsmith

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