With the closure of schools across Western North Carolina, families have been forced to adapt in the face of critical gaps in broadband service, in order to ensure that their students can participate in remote learning. A recent Asheville Citizen-Times article by Brian Gordon examines the impact of these obstacles to online learning in WNC and follows the story of the McGoverns, whose three school-age children have to complete their coursework using the hot spot on their mother’s cellphone. To learn more about how the McGoverns and other families like them are confronting the barriers to broadband access, visit the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Members of the WNC Broadband Project recently co-authored a opinion piece, “COVID-19 and Broadband in Western North Carolina,” which was published in the paper edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times on Sunday, 12 April 2020. To read a text version of this article, click here.
The shift to remote instruction as a result of the pandemic has exposed the critical problem of unequal access to broadband service across our region. More than 35 percent of students in Madison county lack connectivity, and even in Asheville, where higher population density means better broadband service for many, there are significant numbers of students who still do not have internet access. To respond to this urgent need, the Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) has partnered with the Dogwood Health Trust, to provide internet connection through the distribution of hundreds of digital hotspots to teachers and students. To learn more about this collaborative effort, visit the Mountain Xpress.
Early last week, in response to COVID-19, the University of North Carolina system made the decision to extend Spring Break by a week, so that faculty could prepare to teach their courses online for at least the next two weeks, and perhaps for the remainder of the semester. Locally, at UNC Asheville, faculty, staff and administrators are working together to support their students via remote-learning strategies. On 14 March, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order closing K-12 school for two weeks and with the assistance of the NC Department of Public Instruction, teachers statewide are getting ready to take their classes online in the face of considerable challenges. As an article in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times makes clear, many students in Western North Carolina still do not have internet access in the home, and if they do, their service may not have the bandwidth that digital instruction requires. To learn more about how the coronavirus is compelling the rapid shift to online learning, and the difficulties our communities will encounter, visit the Asheville Citizen-Times.
In 2019, the WestNGN Community Broadband Survey, administered by the Land of Sky Regional Council, reveals that 13 percent of our region’s residents do not have broadband access and that for over half of the population, their service is inadequate. The WNC Rural Downtown Wifi and Jobs Project has been awarded $100,000 by the Appalachian Regional Commission to build out broadband access points and kiosks at regional centers, so that members of our community without access or adequate service can benefit from truly high-speed digital connectivity. To learn more about this initiative, please visit the Buncombe County Connecting Community webpage.
On Tuesday, 28 January, MCNC—the operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN)—and Facebook announced that they are joining forces to offer high-speed broadband to nearly 30 communities in Rutherford, Burke, Caldwell, Wilkes, and Surry counties. Read more…
Over 100 regional leaders–from state, county, and city government; from area universities and colleges; and from local business communities–met at UNC Ashveille on Monday, 27 January, to discuss issues surrounding broadband infrastructure and access in Western North Carolina. To read more about the Summit, visit WLOS News 13.