In order to fight the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission has set up The Connect America Fund, with hopes to bring broadband internet to seven million people living in rural areas across the country.
The FCC released $2.3 million to New Mexico during phase one of the Funding. Internet service provider Centurylink, Inc. has taken the FCC funding to establish more high speed internet connections in Deming, located in Southern New Mexico.
In Deming, 33 percent of residents are living below the poverty level. Many cannot afford high speed internet, let alone a computer.
Bell elementary school in Deming provides parents of students an opportunity to use the school’s Family Center to access the Internet, while their children are in class.
At the Center parents of students in the district can apply for jobs, benefits, or educate themselves online or by using the resources library at the school.
Liz Ballinas, Parent Liaison at Bell Elementary School sees the impact of the digital divide everyday.
“I see that a lot of our parents don’t have access to the Internet, and they don’t even have computers,” says Ballinas.
On a home visit, Ballinas discovered after speaking with one mother of a student that getting a copy of the student handbook may even be difficult for parents since it was only available online.
“She said, Well I don’t even have a computer, so how can I access the internet to get a student handbook? I am seeing that a lot of our parents do not have that,” says Ballinas.
Parent, Erica Reyes works at a bank in Deming. She interacts with many customers from the community who are not able to bank online due to not having access to the web.
“It’s the same with education, people can’t afford it so they can’t get access to it,” says Reyes.
Aaron Rogers teaches the fourth grade at Bell. Rogers operates a smart classroom that is equipped with technology to incorporate the Internet during lessons. He says that simply having access to the Internet at home can make a huge difference for a student.
“You hear all the time that the parents are learning about technology from their kids, and that’s of course when they have it at home. As far as them picking it up it’s just a matter of giving them access to it and they will pick it up,” says Rogers.
Bell Elementary School Principal Frank Milo says there are special programs available for families with students living in poverty that may offer discounted internet rates and computers.
“We’re also going to tap into those resources to let parents know that they can bring digital services into their homes,” says Milo.
The more opportunities to get connected to broadband internet may provide more hope for many in this community to get ahead.