Ever since COVID-19 has hit the United States, one of the most affected demographics is students. College students were forced to move out of their dorms in less than a week, and by March almost all students were forced to do school online. The sudden shift to distance learning exposed many flaws in the US education system, particularly that of internet inequality.
The main contributor to education inequality is internet access. With most schools now reliant on online platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, and Microsoft Teams, the Internet is necessary to continue schooling. Furthermore, an article by the Washington Post emphasizes the need for the Internet during the COVID-era:
“As coronavirus grips the nation, the Internet offers an economic lifeline to workers who can do their jobs from home, while aiding sick patients looking to chat with their doctors via video.”
This exemplifies how necessary the Internet is for everyone; not only is it used by students to do their classwork, it is used by health experts, the workforce, and many others daily. This puts much strain on America’s broadband. This strain is the first example of internet inequality. Citing from the same article with data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
"Broadband isn’t available to everyone. More than 21 million Americans do not have access to high-speed Internet, according to the Federal Communications Commissions’ latest data. The numbers have improved in recent years, though the gaps remain pervasive, despite heavy investment by government regulators and private companies.”
This lack of access to broadband in some regions of the US plays into the more significant divide between rural America and urban America. According to a study done by quello.msu.edu: “53% of students who live in small-town or rural areas have high-speed Internet access compared to 77% of those who live in suburbs, and 70% of those in cities.”
Because online platforms need a high-speed Internet connection, students dwelling in urban households are far more likely to attend online classes, resulting in a higher level of education. Ultimately, the fact that rural families do not have nearly as much access to high-speed Internet further widens the overall American rural-urban divide. Because kids in rural households have more setbacks in online school, rural parents are pushing for reopening schools and the economy, supporting more a pro-Republican approach. On the contrary, urban households are pushing against it; for them, the cost of doing online school while protecting the child’s health is far less than the opposite, supporting the pro-Democratic approach.
This ideological divide could foreshadow the result of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Because the Trump administration is attempting to reopen the economy, rural America may perceive Trump as a good leader and vice versa for its urban counterparts.
To conclude, the use of online schooling because of COVID-19 has shown the rural-urban divide and how that is related to internet inequality. The rural-urban divide that is being shown through online school symbolizes how different life can be in the same country. It also shows our weak and unstable broadband in rural America. And finally, it foreshadows whether the states will choose red or blue in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election.