In the 21st century, we live in a dynamic, fast-paced world where technology plays a larger role in society than it ever has before. For today’s students, having advanced technological skills is absolutely necessary to obtain success in a competitive workforce. Technology is no longer just an addition to the classroom; it is a critical tool that prepares students for the future. However, not all children have access to the same technological resources. In fact, there is a large amount of socioeconomic disparity that significantly affects students in low-income districts. The Pew Research Center reports that 84% of teachers agree that today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged students. Detroit, in particular, is a prime example of this inequity. According to the Detroit Public School District, seventy percent of children do not have internet access once they leave school. This means that over 36,000 Detroit students lack internet access at home. This is simply unacceptable, especially because the Federal Communications Commission has already declared that broadband service is a public utility like electricity or water. The vast majority of Detroit’s students are being put at a huge disadvantage because they cannot access the internet from home. As a result, they are unable to complete their homework and begin to fall behind their peers who do have household internet access.

The Detroit Public School District has taken some steps to mitigate this problem. In 2013, the district instituted a pilot program in which 500 Kajeet SmartSpot Wi-Fi hotspot devices were given to high school students. The devices were a resounding success. They are compatible with all Wi-Fi capable devices, making it easy to integrate take-home technology programs in conjunction with schools. It was also affordable to the district because they only had to pay for the data amount used and it allowed students to share available data. Additionally, its controls follow the Children’s Internet Protection Act, allowing parents to give children internet access without the burden of worry. Students involved in the pilot program said that they no longer felt the stress and worry about having to find a place to obtain internet access. However, the cost of these devices was covered by a community grant whose funds have since run out. Implementing and expanding this program within the school district would go a long way in giving students access to the internet at home.  It would also save huge amounts of paper and allow the district to become greener. This could play a large part in closing the gap between those with access to technology at home and those without.

There are also steps that can be taken on a national level to close the digital divide. The Federal Communications Commission reports that as many 1 in 3 American households do not have broadband internet at home. This means that the problems present in Detroit can be seen in countless other places, from California to New York. Broadband carriers could take steps to create programs that cater specifically to underprivileged households. Actually, Comcast and AT&T have already started doing this. In 2011, Comcast started the Comcast Essentials program to offer Internet access at a reduced rate to families who have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. In Detroit, over 17,000 households take part in the program. Last year, AT&T launched a program that dropped the price of internet to as little as 5 dollars a month and made the program eligible to anyone in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. There are currently some caveats like data caps, but expanding these programs and having additional carriers institute their own initiatives could greatly impact the future of internet accessibility.

Internet access should no longer be considered a privilege; it must be considered a right. While the digital divide continues to widen, we are sitting by and allowing students who come from underprivileged backgrounds to lag behind their peers. This leads to the cycle continuing on and generations of children starting out their education with a disadvantage, something that is absolutely unacceptable. The American Dream was founded on the idea that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. By giving all children access to the internet, we show our dedication to the American Dream and our staunch belief that every child deserves the opportunity to obtain the best education possible.