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Los Angeles Unified Providing High-Speed Internet Access to Thousands of Families In Need (05-03-2022)

Shannon Haber

May 3, 2022

Los Angeles Unified Providing High-Speed Internet Access
to Thousands of Families In Need

Bell Senior High School

Bell Senior High School

Los Angeles, CA (May 3, 2022) – In an unprecedented effort, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system, is helping thousands of students get reliable access to high speed internet at home and other off-campus locations. All Families Connected, a programmatic effort bolstered by Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, is leveraging federal funding to sponsor high-speed internet service in households where students lack the necessary connectivity to participate fully in their education.

“In an age when teaching and learning is increasingly digital, access to reliable high-speed internet is simply a human right,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said. “We have a responsibility as educators to ensure every student has the tools needed to access every learning opportunity available, and that includes reliable internet access, around the clock, on- and off-campus.”

Flanked by executives from Charter Communications and AT&T, two corporations with whom the district has contracted to provide high-speed internet to families, the superintendent spoke at a press conference Tuesday at Bell Senior High School, indicating the effort was among his top priorities. He spoke of the increasing need every student has to access online learning content, interact with teachers and peers, complete home assignments and research projects. 

“Without reliable internet access, our students don’t have what they need to learn,” Superintendent Carvalho continued. “It’s as simple as that. Los Angeles Unified is relentless in our efforts to equip our students with the resources they need to achieve their full academic potential.”

“I’m thrilled that the District’s unprecedented move to ensure families’ access to high-speed internet access will lead to greater educational equity,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “Equity at Los Angeles Unified is about all students, regardless of their backgrounds, having the resources they need to graduate and to prepare for promising futures filled with opportunity.”

“Universal internet access is not a luxury—it’s a global necessity,” School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin said. “I am glad that the Superintendent is building on our Board’s ongoing efforts to permanently bridge the digital divide and ensure that every student and family in LA Unified can stay connected.”

“Today is a step forward in providing our students with an essential tool to achieve academic success,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said. “Internet connectivity is a necessity not a luxury and should be available and accessible to all our families.”

“Access, equity and justice all advance today,” Board Member Mónica García said. “We have worked for more than a decade to close the digital divide in Los Angeles Unified. Today’s announcement advances this work that is life changing for many.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, Los Angeles Unified has responded to the needs of our families and students by providing wrap-around services, including continued COVID testing and vaccination appointments,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “All Families Connected completes the menu of services. Our thanks to Superintendent Carvalho, Charter Communications and AT&T for this much needed and life changing project.”

“For far too long, families with the greatest needs have had the least access to affordable high-speed internet,” Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said. “Though the digital divide was not created by school systems, during the pandemic we had – and will continue to have far into the future – the responsibility of ensuring our students are able to continue learning grade-level material no matter where they are learning. In March 2021, I authored the unanimously-passed ‘Closing the Digital Divide’ Board Resolution and am so proud to see the progress we are making together. I am in full support of our All Families Connected Initiative to ensure that all students can stay on track for college, career and life preparation.”

In 2021, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7 billion program to “provide relief to millions of students, school staff, and library patrons and will help close the Homework Gap for students who currently lack necessary Internet access or the devices they need to connect to classrooms.” Los Angeles Unified is leveraging the funds to pay for internet access for the households of families who indicate that their students’ connectivity needs are not being met. Those who live at an address that can be serviced by one of the district’s contracted providers are offered 12 months of service at no cost to the family – the district pays 100 percent of the service cost. There are no income or other requirements for a family to be eligible.

For many families for whom fixed in-home service is not an option – such as those experiencing housing instability – the district provides other means of connectivity, such as mobile hotspot devices or long-term evolution (LTE) netbooks or tablets that a student can use to connect directly to a wireless network.

Other organizations including the California Emerging Technology Fund, the City of Los Angeles and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools have helped close the digital divide for families and students across Los Angeles by providing hotspots and connectivity services.