December 16, 2020
Collaborative Partnerships between School Districts and America’s Wireless Industry Have Helped Connect More than 2.4 Million Students During COVID-19

Report highlights how wireless solutions like hotspots are a fast and effective way to provide internet connections for remote learning 

A report released today by Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, outlines how school districts and state education departments have partnered with the U.S. wireless industry to ensure that more than 2.4 million students have the crucial internet connections they need for online learning during the pandemic.

Approximately 30 percent of America’s students do not have access to adequate home internet service. COVID-19 and related financial distress have only exacerbated the problem known as the digital divide, which disproportionately impacts children of color and those from low-income families. When districts transitioned to distance learning in the spring of 2020, students who didn’t have technology and connectivity at home were unable to attend their online classes until their school systems filled the gaps.

Wireless providers stepped in to help. The report, produced in partnership with CTIA, explains that collaborations between education systems and providers enabled schools to deliver wireless hotspots with internet speeds and data thresholds to support most virtual learning and are making a meaningful difference for millions of students.

“Together, education leaders and America’s wireless providers have worked tirelessly to get students across the country connected,” said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee. “Hotspots are a fast and effective way to help bridge the digital divide in this unprecedented emergency. Moving forward, policymakers must unite around permanent solutions to connect all students.”

The report notes that:

  • School districts have found wireless hotspots and tablets/laptops with built-in hotspot connectivity to be quick and easy to activate.
  •  Cross-state frameworks are simplifying and streamlining how systems procure hotspots to connect large numbers of students.
  • A major portion of the funding for the technology purchased through these and other initiatives was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Thanks to forward-thinking educational leaders and America’s wireless industry, over 2 million kids—including some of the most at-risk populations—now have the internet connectivity necessary for their learning needs,” said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker. “The U.S. wireless industry remains committed to resourceful partnerships with school districts and communities that connect our children to the educational resources they need to close the opportunity gap.”

Members of Chiefs for Change lead education systems that collectively serve more than 7 million students across the United States. The report includes a list of partnerships between members of the network and U.S. wireless providers.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the wireless industry has stepped up at a moment’s notice to connect our kids during COVID,” said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent and Chiefs for Change member Aleesia Johnson. “But we can’t rest—policymakers must build on these efforts and the CARES Act funding to continue closing the digital divide and supporting the collaborative and innovative approaches that have already paid dividends.”

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.

About CTIA

CTIA represents the U.S. wireless communications industry. From carriers and equipment manufacturers to mobile app developers and content creators, CTIA brings together a dynamic group of companies that enable consumers to lead a 21st Century connected life.