Students in rural Georgia school districts who have struggled to do their classwork due to poor Internet coverage will get some relief thanks to a donation of 448 WiFi Rangers from AT&T.
Each district will create its own mobilization plans for placing the WiFi Rangers on school buses or other public vehicles to reach the highest numbers of unserved students in their communities. Each WiFi Ranger can enable internet connections for up to 45 devices at one time.
“AT&T is doing our state a great service, helping us take a step forward to address the lack of available broadband connectivity for Georgia students,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “This issue has come into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic as so many rural students struggle to continue remote learning without internet access.”
Why it Matters: According to a Federal Communications Commission report released last month, of Americans not connected to the internet, 78 percent live in rural areas. More than 22 percent of rural Americans do not have access to high-speed internet, compared to 1.5 percent of urban dwellers without high-speed internet. This means that rural students are almost 15 times more likely to lack access to the internet for remote learning when school buildings are closed.
“More than ever before, connecting people with resources needed to maintain a sense of normalcy is critical, and we are committed to supporting Georgia’s students, families, and teachers,” said Venessa Harrison, President of AT&T Georgia.
All 36 school systems chosen are located in rural Georgia; system selection was based on factors which included poverty level of the school population, the student-to-device ratio in a school’s existing technology inventory, and the school’s status on either the Comprehensive Support and Improvement or Targeted Support and Improvement lists.
AT&T’s donation includes two free months of service for each device. Additional grant funding was applied to extend the impact of the initiative to an additional three months of service for each device. Districts have expressed their appreciation for the Wi-Fi Rangers and the five months of service that the donation will make available.
School systems will choose locations for WiFi Ranger bus networks, sending them to unserved areas where students do not have access to internet at home. Access information will be communicated directly to their students and families who will be able to access the WiFi by parking nearby or by walking to the WiFi Ranger bus location. Parents and students will be directed to follow the state guidelines for social distancing, but they will be able to access the internet signal within a certain distance of the bus. The signal for each bus has a range for connection up to 300 feet — the length of a football field.