As coronavirus limits Worcester students to remote learning, internet has dominated much of the conversation surrounding the difficulties of creating an equitable and accessible remote learning experience for all students.

While the coronavirus has exacerbated the issues Worcester faces in regards to internet, for all residents, many of these issues including access, price and speed have been around long before the global pandemic hit, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau has outlined in their “Broadening Broadband” report.

The issues have been have been compounded due to a “regional monopoly, lack of infrastructure investment and a prioritization of profits over service,” the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced students into an online learning model, even though thousands of students did not live in internet-connected households,” the Bureau writes. “This created a hardware problem, since many students did not possess a device that could connect to the internet and allow them to complete schoolwork, and a connection problem, since even after WPS delivered Chromebooks to affected families, many students did not have a Charter subscription, and the company’s proposed rates were expensive enough to create a barrier families could not solve on their own.”

In July, Mayor Joseph Petty and Worcester Superintendent of Schools Maureen Binienda penned a letter to the city’s main internet provider, Spectrum, stating, “Our students should not be penalized for having the misfortune of living in a city served by your company.”

The Bureau’s report, which published early July, has since gained a solid momentum with the Standing Committee on School and Student Performance requesting City Council to explore the idea and provide a detailed cost analysis of the potential municipal broadband investment.

Additionally, Worcester’s City Council Urban Technologies, Innovation and Environment Committee proposed a task force be created to explore the feasibility of creating a municipally owned broadband.

The City Council has yet to move forward on either request.

MassLive will speak with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 4:00 p.m. over Facebook Live about their report “Broadening Broadband” and why they believe Worcester should invest in municipal broadband. Tune in live to have your questions answered.

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