Connecting for Work and Learning:
Universal Broadband Access in the United States
Learners and workers across the United States face a tremendous, yet resolvable challenge: lack of access to the Internet and the tools they need to work in a connected world.
We have overcome challenges like this before: to overcome communication barriers more than two centuries ago, we created the U.S. Postal Service. More than a century ago, we worked together to meet the basic need for electricity in rural areas across the country.
It’s time to electrify the country again, in an equally important way. The ASU ShapingEDU “Connecting for Work and Learning” initiative aims to make concrete collective progress toward this future where broadband is accessible to all.
This is our future; it needs to be our present. We hope you’ll join us to drive universal access to the Internet and digital resources through a collaborative effort involving local, regional, and national collaborators. Together, we will craft a more equitable future in education, work and society. You can make a difference.
Initial Problem Statement:
Learners and workers across the United States face a tremendous, yet resolvable challenge: lack of access to the Internet and the tools they need to work in a connected world. We can see, in our present shelter-in-place environment, that people can’t work adequately and effectively because they lack access to broadband tools and resources. In and beyond our current remote environments, access to digital communication channels is essential to the discourse that is at the heart of our democracy. We believe there is an answer: universal broadband and access to the tools and resources necessary to leverage internet access for learning and work. Equitable access to Internet resources can help heal wounds that exist now, provide for both structured and organic solutions to arise, and provide tools to strengthen our ability to collaborate at local, regional, and national levels to creatively, innovatively solve problems. We need partners to make this happen. We need you to join the project team.
In spring 2020, enormously challenging issues both polarized and drew people together in reaction to the need for massive transformation. One of these challenges involved the quick--and for many, unplanned--move from a focus on onsite learning and work to online learning and work. Drawing upon past initiatives (including the electrification of America during the first half of the twentieth century and the earlier creation of a national postal service), members of the ShapingEDU community asked a basic question:
How can we individually and collaboratively move concretely toward universal broadband access and access to the tools, practices, and resources (e.g., people), and systems of support needed to flourish in learning and at work?
Rural, urban, and suburban learners; no devices, old devices; no connectivity, slow connectivity, cellular-only connectivity; the wrong sides of the road. These are only some of the barriers faced by people across America when it comes to connecting to the internet to continue schoolwork, to teach, to create, to conference call, to connect, during this pandemic -- and beyond. In this moment, we are challenged to consider the world we want to emerge into, and act to create those futures.
The ShapingEDU community’s focus is on individual impact toward collective, collaborative results. In this project, we strive to enable learning by addressing gaps in access to broadband internet, devices, information and resources, and human support. Access to the internet and resources is a starting point but must be accompanied by education to evaluate and use the information and resources for the greater good. The intersection of access and education creates a proving ground of innovation and progress.
Action: A community of education changemakers seeks to catalyze change in response to this urgent challenge through action-oriented resources, community engagement + stakeholder inclusion and partnership. Specifically, we are taking the following steps:
Document the challenge and envision the potential (call to action: share examples!);
Identify groups and individuals currently addressing the problem;
Propose actions (for example, creating and curating resources and events);
Propose builds to expand and amplify actions and go beyond ‘solving the problem’ ;
Develop partnerships; and
Collectively enact actions
Iterate, build, expand and innovate
Resources + Stories:
[Free Course] Connecting Learners for Work and Education: Universal Broadband Access in the United States (A free online course created by this project team!)
Gina Millsap: Broadband Avenger (March 23, 2021)
Conversation with Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting Chairwoman, Federal Communications Commission: video recording (March 2, 2021)
Beth Holland: Barriers, Challenges, and Empathy in Fostering Broadband Access (February 11, 2021)
Letter of Support for Universal Broadband in the U.S. (February 11, 2021)
"Lev Gonick on Universal Broadband Access: If Not Now, When?" (December 11, 2020)
"Arlene Krebs: Broadband Internet Access, Learning, and Social Justice" (September 8, 2020)