Jerry Jones: Connect Students

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
May 14, 2020

As the doors of our schools closed this spring, most Arkansas families transitioned from students physically going to school to educational content coming to their home via the Internet. But how does a student keep up with their peers if there is no high-speed Internet access at home?

The circumstances of the coronavirus demonstrate the need to strengthen the relationships between education and Internet access in Arkansas. Many of us take for granted the speed and constant availability of broadband in our homes and workplaces, but many Arkansans do not share in that access. And this is especially true for many rural areas.

If we are going to push back against the tyranny of geography, rectify inequities in our education system, raise up our educational outcomes and erect the foundation for a stronger economy, then we must come together and commit to providing universal access to high-speed Internet to every family in Arkansas, regardless of where they live or the money they make.

Internet access is an essential doorway to ever-increasing amounts of information, knowledge and educational resources. Where that digital door is closed, students are disadvantaged. When the virus closed schools’ physical doors, the gaps of access became visible. Estimates from the American Community Survey show that in some Arkansas school districts, up to 64 percent of kids won’t have the technology or the access to successfully participate in Internet-based alternative instruction.

Read the full op-ed published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Jerry Jones is a member of the ForwARd Arkansas Board of Directors and serves as chief legal and ethics officer, as well as executive vice president, at LiveRamp, an enterprise customer management software company.