The Learning Needs to Continue

in Tennessee

We can close the connectivity gap during this pandemic.

The Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequities in our public education system. Schools are closed and learning has shifted to online and at-home.

However, according to the FCC, 12 million students lack home internet access and 35% of low-income U.S. households with school-age children do not have internet access or a dependable device at home. This is a basic need for students to continue their studies this school year and into the summer. At a time in our country where there is an abundance of high quality, free learning materials that can be accessed anytime and anywhere, it feels particularly egregious that the students who need these tools the most do not benefit.

Current Activity and Information

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of people can’t purchase reasonably priced internet access (under $60/month)
of people don’t have access to fast enough internet for school & work (25 mbps or faster)

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Learn about how the digital divide is impacting students in Tennessee

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Read an Op-Ed from Tennessee State Representative Mark White, on why high-speed internet is essential to the growth and stability of Tennessee

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Read an Op-Ed from Dr. Mark Griffith, Director of Schools for Marion County Schools on why we must expand broadband access to support all students in Tennessee

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Read an Op-Ed from Kelly McCreight, Board Chair of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce on why federal leaders should join with business to guarantee high-speed internet access

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Read an Op-Ed from the Tennessean on why educators say it's impossible to separate academics from digital access with the struggles of remote learning

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Read how Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will grant $61 million to the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund to improve access to broadband internet across the state

  • Broadband Now estimates that 274,000 people do not have wired access and 492,000 people do not have wired access of at least mbps, the speed needed to stream video.

What People in Tennessee Are Saying

"We live in a remote area in Tennessee a city named Elora. We have been informed numerous times we cannot get internet access. There are no options. Yet we can get direct TV satellite. But no internet. My son is in his senior year of school. And I'm stressed due to this and issues with school. This pandemic has been a strain on us single parents who are unable to find work let alone get what we need. I need help!!"

Amy Jarquin

“My granddaughter cannot access internet for school because of our limited income, please help.”

Angela Johnson

“I got behind 8 years ago on my cable and couldn't pay it so now they got a freeze on my unit. I do not have cable or Internet and I am a single grandparent with 13 grandchildren. School will start soon and I don't have internet for them to have for school. I work for Kroger's and I don't make much, I don't even get 40 hours a week. Is there some way that you can help me, I really would appreciate it thank you and bless you.”

Bettyna Bradford
Retail Employee

“There is no Internet where we live that you can afford. And my son who is going into high school this year feels uncomfortable being around so many people during this pandemic. Low-income families have no choice in sending our kids back to school regardless of their wishes.”


The Solution

Solutions can look different across the country. In urban areas, physical fiber infrastructure and cell towers exist but some residents cannot pay for personal Wi-Fi hotspots and subscriptions to access it. In rural areas, the infrastructure for wired or wireless connectivity is unreliable or nonexistent. States and districts have begun implementing piecemeal fixes to local connectivity challenges, but more need to be done to address the problem nationwide.

Tactics in service to a national campaign:

  • 35% of low-income US households with school-age children do not have internet access at home.
  • A Microsoft/4-H Study indicated that 1 in 6 rural teens do not have access to broadband internet.
  • “Since my first day as Chairman of the FCC, my number one priority has been closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of the Internet age to all Americans.” – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
  • More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.” In addition, one-in-four teens in households with an annual income under $30,000 lack access to a computer at home (Pew Research Center 2018).
  • Collect state-specific stories and data in a core set of target states identified by the US Chamber Foundation and the National PTA illustrating the need for immediate investment in connectivity.
  • Create in-state “road shows” of leaders and experts who can participate in webinars and phone calls with PTA’s and Chambers in the state to build awareness around the solutions.
  • Build coalitions of state-based advocates who are willing to rally support for closing the connectivity gap.
  • Customized, state-specific collateral for distribution digitally.
  • Author and promote op-eds and interviews with Chambers, PTAs, and other state leaders to build support and buy-in that a solution is possible.
  • Outreach to the White House – both the Office of the First Lady and the Office of Public Liaison – to express a sense of urgency around needs that students, teachers, and families share.
  • Outreach to key national education organizations to add their voice to the campaign.
  • National campaign webinar with leading experts to build awareness on the set of solutions being proposed to close the digital divide.

Tell Your Story

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 21 million people in the US don't have a broadband connection with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (the minimum speed designated by the FCC to allow for basic work and school activities).

Are you and your family, or people in your community currently struggling with school activities due to a lack of internet connection? You’re not alone. Please tell us your story. 

Are you an advocate working to tackle connectivity in your community or state? Share your work here or email if you have artifacts or attachments to share. Together we can help show our leaders that basic broadband internet is integral to our national education needs and should be a right, not a privilege.