Broadband Gaps In Rural NC Raise Equity Concerns

Broadband Gaps In Rural NC Raise Equity Concerns

1:24pm Jun 16, 2020
State officials recently announced health guidelines for grades K-12 for in person instruction, but also caution that the reopening of school buildings could be delayed if COVID-19 cases continue to rise. KERI BROWN/WFDD

Schools across the state are planning ahead for the possibility of continued remote learning. Education leaders say the pandemic has shown how deep the digital divide is for families in rural North Carolina.

According to the most recent data from the Federal Communications Commission, about 14 percent of people in rural North Carolina don’t have access to broadband, and more than 19 percent lack access to a faster speed tier.

Strother Bullins is a teacher in Stokes County. He says there are extra hurdles for these students, including traveling to a library, hotspot, or relative’s house just to connect.

"And it’s really important for rural kids because they see all of these things going on and they see all of these things through social media but then they don’t have the connection like everybody else does," says Bullins. "It limits the possibilities, and it limits the economic possibilities out here too for the parents.”

Governor Cooper launched a task force last March to address the issue. A proposed bill is also under consideration that would allow counties to build infrastructure for broadband and lease it to private companies, among other items.

A similar measure failed to move forward last year.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you’re experiencing.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

Support your
public radio station