Remote learning is moving along throughout the state, but internet connectivity for all students remains an issue.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey is urging eligible families to take advantage of Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) for Students, a $100 million program that provides free internet access to low-income Alabama families during the pandemic.
Voucher letters are sent out to families in the mail, with an initial round going out in August and a second round in September.
Dr. Mackey says he is concerned that families are not taking full advantage of the ABC for Students program due to hesitation surrounding the voucher letters.
“When families get what looks like official mail and it is official mail from the government, many times they are afraid to open it, or they don’t pay attention to it,” Dr. Mackey said.
Some families have mistaken these letters to be a scam, causing them to disregard the mail.
“This is a program to give free internet services to students, they should not have to pay anything, they would not be providing a bank account number, providing a credit card number, there is no charge whatsoever to the parents. So, if anybody’s asking you for money, this is not part of our program,” Dr. Mackey said.
As of last Thursday, Dr. Mackey says Alabama families redeemed 44,000 vouchers, connecting 75,000 students. Vouchers will be good through the end of year, at which time Dr. Mackey says schools will need extended funding for the broadband program among other needs.
“We all realize now that the impacts of Covid-19 are going to go into the winter and spring and we’re going to need extension. Two things: one is some relief from Congress so that the money we have can be extended and spent through the spring and then probably additional money for things like broadband,” Dr. Mackey said.
Dr. Mackey adds that there are additional issues confronting access to broadband for all students, like broadband not being available in rural parts of the state. He says that in some impoverished urban areas, children may move between households and may not have internet access at each location.
For more information, visit the ABC for Students program website.