How satellite internet can help close the education gap

Connectivity, especially in underserved areas, can be a crucial link for students


It’s back to school time for many students. For students lucky enough to enjoy a quick commute to school, it’s easy to forget that many Americans aren’t so fortunate.

Today, nearly 60 percent of kids get to school by car, almost four times as many as did in the late 1960s. While many urban students travel less than 20 minutes to class, students who live outside of town can face much longer trips of an hour or more. And since each additional minute of commuting is associated with a decrease in exercise, sleep, and other measures of well-being, that long drive can have much greater consequences beyond boredom.

Online education is one great way to help narrow the education gap between students within cities and those in unserved and underserved areas. But a rural student seeking an online diploma is likely to run into infrastructure problems: Some 5 million American households with school-aged children don’t have high-speed internet at home.

Lack of fast internet is a problem for any pupil, with 96.5 percent of students reporting that they are expected to go online to finish their homework assignments. But the problem is compounded for rural students. Many go to school early, skip lunch, and stay after school to work on assignments. Others spend a lot of time at the local library, where demand for a computer is high, and they must wait in line for a device to become available. Some sit in cars at night with a laptop to use a local business’s Wi-Fi after hours.

“I used any free time at school: breakfast, our morning break or I would even get to school early, having to rush through my work to finish on time,” says Natchez, a Mississippi high school student and aspiring forensic pathologist who, until recently, struggled with her community’s limited internet options.

Satellite’s benefits

This is where reliable, high-speed internet via satellite can offer the impactful benefits in the shortest time. Viasat’s service reaches almost everywhere in the U.S., offering service to those unserved and underserved communities.

Oftentimes, fiber and cable providers find it too expensive to reach just a few homes in a spread-out community. Even with financial viability, there is a significant time lag to build the infrastructure, lay fiber or cable and supply the service. Satellite, on the other hand, takes just a few days from sign-up to sign on.

And in this case, time really does matter. For a young student looking to pursue a career in tech or science, a few more years of waiting for a decent ground-based service is a few years too long.

Fortunately for student Natchez, her family learned they had another option to help her finish her homework and connect their home: satellite internet. With Viasat service installed, the family is now connected through the power of satellite communications.

“It’s really fast,” Natchez said. “Now that we have the internet, I’ll be able to do my homework on time and get one step closer to closing in on my dreams.”

Patti Rutkin is a fierce advocate of the customer experience. As the marketing lead for Viasat’s US residential business, she is responsible for raising awareness about Viasat’s home internet service within the communities it serves.