Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber called the system’s Friday announcement “historic.”
Now, “historic” might be a bit superfluous, but it’s not far from reality.
The school system held an event at the Kings Center on Friday to mark the beginning of a program to provide modems and free internet access to Frankfort students who previously didn’t have access to the web.
The program is set to provide 53 households, or about 100 students, with free internet. The program could bridge the digital divide, Barber said.
In an era when the web is our primary portal to the world, families and children without the money to pay for internet access or decide against a subscription can miss out on things that others take for granted.
Children who grow up with family computers or tablets and easy internet access gain computer literacy at an early age, and by elementary school they’re able to easily navigate the applications and websites that have become commonplace in public schools. A basic level of computer literacy at an early age allows schoolchildren to quickly learn more complicated tasks such as creating smartphone applications.
Meanwhile, students and families without those same privileges face challenges such as decreased computer literacy and a more difficult path to access basic information about the world around them.
Today, smartphones serve as the primary connection to the internet for some families, but there are cases where families don’t even have that.
A 2017 Pew Research Study found that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 73 percent have broadband at home. That leaves a not-insignificant share of the population that faces challenges a majority of the population does not.
Frankfort Independent Schools should be commended for its effort to decrease the number of local residents without internet access.
Also important in the project is the Kentucky Capital Development Corp., which provided $60,000 for the project, and the Frankfort Plant Board, which is tasked with internet installation in students’ homes.
All Franklin County residents — and all Americans, for that matter — should have access to the internet, and we encourage local organizations and nonprofit agencies to develop ways to narrow the digital divide that local residents may face.