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Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted federal, Tribal, state, and local leaders to double down on efforts to address the digital divide, which has long impacted students and families with limited access to affordable broadband internet at home. A sense of urgency catalyzed leaders at all levels around the goal of ensuring continuity of learning for our nation’s students. As a result, long-standing barriers—siloes that can prevent cross-sector collaboration, bureaucratic red tape that can stall projects and limit action—were overcome to connect students and families on accelerated timelines.  

The digital divide is a national challenge that requires coordinated federal, Tribal, state, and local efforts and tailored, localized solutions. Although progress was made during the pandemic, it is imperative to maintain a collective sense of urgency to ensure equitable access to home internet access and high-quality education for students.

States can continue to support schools and districts by adapting and implementing the strategies highlighted in the Home Access Playbook:

  • Play 1 – Find or Form a State Broadband Coalition – Get involved in statewide broadband or digital inclusion efforts to leverage resources, capacity, and expertise across multiple state agencies and create a greater collective—and ensure education leaders are included.
  • Play 2 – Collect data on broadband availability, affordability, adoption, and quality and use it to drive decision-making – Collect data to drive decision-making, understand the existing barriers to broadband deployment and adoption, identify the most appropriate long-term solutions, target resources, assess progress, and build public support for broadband initiatives.
  • Play 3 – Identify needs and recruit partners to fill specific gaps – Build collaborative, cross-sector partnerships to increase capacity to implement solutions, introduce new expertise and skills, build broad project support, and open new avenues for funding or leadership support.
  • Play 4 – Assist Districts with a Menu of Options – Equip districts with information on the available broadband solutions and the factors that will impact their effectiveness to support informed local decision-making.
  • Play 5 – Leverage Bulk Purchasing to Optimize Use of Funds – Support districts by offering centrally managed procurement vehicles or contracts that leverage bulk purchasing power or longer contract timelines to increase affordability.
  • Play 6 – Provide Training and Technical Support for Families to Enhance Basic Digital Literacy Skills and Effectively Support Remote Learning – Provide families training and support on the use of technology and platforms provided by the school.
  • Play 7 – Provide Professional Learning and Resources for Educators to Drive Meaningful Classroom Learning – Provide professional learning opportunities that support improvements in instructional design and empower educators to effectively use technology to support student learning.

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