Broadband Impact on Education and Workforce during the COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of broadband equity across the United States. K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, health services, and many industries moved much of their operations online to conform with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Broadband access became integral for students to keep up with their learning and for adults to remain productive at work, as well as for keeping connections to the world. Unequal access to broadband resources (the “digital divide”) was illuminated by this increased dependence on the Internet. At the request of local leaders in 2021, the University of Tennessee Extension partnered with libraries in eight rural counties to expand a mobile hotspot lending program that had been piloted in three counties in 2018. Library patrons were allowed to check out mobile internet hotspots to use at home for a few days. When they returned the hotspots, they were asked to fill out a survey. This presentation discusses survey responses from 2018 and 2021 that were compared to understand changes, if any, to broadband equity challenges for rural residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Slides of a virtual presentation made at Broadband Issues Briefing, Part Two, hosted by the Southern Rural Development Center. A corresponding research brief was published by the Southern Rural Development Center.


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