Sketches of three buildings with wifi symbols and the words "Broadband Access + Digital Equity Storybook, Volume 1, February - June 2021"

Storybook of Broadband Access + Digital Equity: Volume 1

Laura Geringer

— Jun 29, 2021

By Lisa Gustinelli

March 2020 was quite a memorable month for all of us. As we scrambled to figure out the new normal, it was evident that technology would be playing a huge part in the transition to “at home, work”, study, and all aspects of our day-to-day life including access to medical care and even job searches.

While most of us simply took out our laptops, signed into our PC’s and started using our mobile devices as our new connection to the world, many were shut out and many still are.

An email blast in the form of “a call for stories”, specifically lack of Wi-Fi access stories, resulted in a flood of emails in my inbox from educators, administrators, parents, students about themselves, and others who were and still are unable to connect or participate in the same activities as those with ubiquitous access.

A mother sitting on the floor of her bathroom having a parent teacher conference because she can’t get a signal elsewhere in her home, a school child doing homework in the parking lot of the local library because she doesn’t have Wi-Fi at home, and an administrator of a rural migrant school organizing the distribution of worksheets in Ziplock bags so the students living in a poor rural community could have some semblance of learning while his school is closed.

These stories, and others shared by the ShapingEDU community at our ShapingEDU LIVE: Developing + Telling Stories of Broadband Access event in March, came together in our Storybook of Broadband Access + Digital Equity:  Volume 1. We're delighted to release this storybook publicly today!

Presently, Americans are happy to “be back”, back to work, back to school, back to “normal life”, but many were not back before the Pandemic, and are still NOT BACK. Yesterday while on a walk, I met with Maratha and Camilo, Haitian immigrants. They asked me to help their teenage daughter. She is taking summer classes and is hoping to apply for a summer job, yet the family cannot afford Wi-Fi or a device.

At a meeting earlier this year with Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting Chairwoman of the FCC, we talked about the myriad stories we collected. After our discussion, the FCC posted a link on their website where citizens can share their stories. Rosenworcel too is deeply moved by this difficult situation and confirmed that it is the stories that she can share and bring to our government leaders to initiate change. With permission, we've since contributed to the FCC's story collection efforts.

Have you seen neighbors, friends, or elderly in your community who are shut out because of poor or no Wi-Fi connection, lack of a device or knowledge of how to navigate our new digital world?  Have you or your family members been impacted? We invite you to share your story.

Together, let us reach #digitalaffluence and close the #digitaldivide.

Laura Geringer