Google will provide rural California students with 4,000 free Chromebooks and 100,000 WiFi hotspots to help them participate in the region’s distance learning program.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that the state’s public learning centers would remain shuttered through the academic year to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. However, school will still be in session via virtual classrooms, and Google’s donation will help disadvantaged young people continue their education.
Bridging the Digital Divide
Although California’s Silicon Valley hosts many leading technology companies, 20 percent of the state’s students don’t have Internet access. The Big Tech firm’s donation helps bridge the digital divide by equipping young learners with much-needed equipment. Moreover, Google will pay for 100,000 families affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with free WiFi service for at least three months.
“This was a substantial enhancement that came just at the right time,” said Newsom at a press conference. “We need more Googles.”
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai expressed his pride in helping California provide students with learning materials via Twitter.
Proud to work with @GavinNewsom & partners to help bridge the digital divide in our home state. We’re providing 4,000 Chromebooks to California students in greatest need & free wifi to 100,000 rural households during the #COVID19 crisis to make distance learning more accessible.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 1, 2020
While the Golden State’s decision to close its public schools amid the viral outbreak is sensible, the order has created a series of unfortunate complications. Right now, the region’s educators and administrators are scrambling to provide remote educational support for 6.1 million students.
California’s Efforts to Implement Distance-Learning Solutions
Despite Google’s generous networking gear donation, a significant number of California students still lack adequate internet access. According to the SFGate, the state still needs 162,013 wireless access points to provide coverage for public school attendees.
Since school closure orders began, various California municipalities have taken steps to get learning materials to students in need.
The San Francisco Unified School District distributed 5,200 Chromebooks to affected pupils in grades 3 to 12 last month. However, Bay Area education system officials note they need to hand out another 5,000 Google laptops before the region’s distance learning program starts later this month.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Unified School District sanctioned a $100 million investment to give area students laptops. The organization is also working with Verizon to ensure public school attendees can get online and participate in remote classes.
Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner called his school district’s move “unprecedented,” but required to help local underprivileged young people.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is also working to ensure American students have the necessary distance learning resources.
On March 18, the agency waived government regulations that prevented U.S. schools and hospitals from requesting or accepting networking hardware from online service providers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also asked telecommunications companies to team up with schools to distribute networking hardware to disadvantaged students.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also called upon her organization to intervene in closing the “homework gap.” The official said 12 million students across the U.S. have fallen into the digital divide and need help. Rosenworcel’s proposed solution is for her agency to provide American schools with WiFi hotspots where required.
Hopefully, state and federal government officials will find a way to provide remote learning support for all U.S. students affected by the coronavirus outbreak.