Hites Request for Wi-Fi
By: Riley Keenan
June 16, 2020, 5:18 p.m
Starting on April 20th the Philadelphia school district began to distribute 80,000 Chromebooks to Philadelphia students. Despite the distribution of these, there is still one main problem. According to the Census in 2018, 1 in 5 families in the city of Philadelphia do not have reliable internet access. Therefore Chromebook distribution is rendered useless to those that lack internet access. The school district has provided internet access methods that require minimal payment. However, the free options published on the school district website include using hotspots from closed facilities such as the free library and local restaurants, this would require students to sit outside the facility to do their online work. The district has said that they never endorsed the “parking lot method” of accessing WiFi, which is essentially doing schoolwork in school parking lots. Yet the school district promotes the idea of sitting outside closed facilities in order to access their wifi.
The lack of free options for wifi is not entirely the school districts fault. This is due to the fact that recently Dr. Hite requested that Comcast open up their at-home wifi networks in order to provide for the 20,000 Philadelphia students that lack internet access. Yet, the multi-billion-dollar company has refused to open at home wifi, limiting the ability of students to have an equal opportunity at online schooling. The lack of support from Comcast in these times forced the already poor district to purchase mobile hotspots for students in need. However, these hotspots are not a long term solution to the problem. This is due to the fact that these hotspots have proven to be slow and glitchy, which cause problems when it comes to logging onto online meetings and being able to effectively complete online school work.
As the school year comes to a close and options for the next school year and this one demands wifi, there is no way to provide our students with the resources they need. In unprecedented times such as these, making sure that students have access to education is critical. According to recent data only 57 percent of students are participating in an online school. The only way to guarantee full participation is to level the playing field for all students. If there is no change in the internet for students, there is no way to ensure equal opportunity in Philadelphia schools.