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Survey by SF students reveal inequity, slow internet speeds for low income families

Survey by SF students reveal inequity, slow internet speeds for low income families

Editor’s note: The following is a story written by 4th and 5th grade bilingual students at Paul Revere Elementary School in Bernal Heights, and focuses on the inequity that exists around  internet speeds for low income families and the impact that has children’s education.

Imagine you are in class and your internet goes off. You feel really scared because you think you will miss class. You try to get back in, but your internet is going crazy. 

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This problem is a reality for lots of students at our school. We investigated what happens when the internet fails and the causes of this problem: that families can’t always pay for faster Wi-Fi, or they may have too many people on one hotspot. 

We surveyed 48 kids about Wi-Fi at our school. Most people have family Wi-Fi, but 34.8% of people use the school hot spot. We also found that 2.2% of people don’t have internet. Those students do their classes on their phones or an adult’s phone.

Illustration: Briana

When your internet isn’t working well, it can be frustrating. Imagine you have to talk in class and your internet logs you off. You try to get back in, but your internet is going crazy.  Sometimes it can go very slow and also fast. The connection does not have enough space for more than 1 year, people may feel scared or frustrated by missing class or assignments. The people that have slow internet, they have to wait for everything to load. 

“I have the NETGEAR, AT&T internet. And it has been pretty slow these days. But sometimes fast,” said Hamily, a 5th grade student. “When someone starts using it, it goes pretty good, but when a lot of people are on the same hotspot, it’s not easy to use it. I always take it with me when I’m in class. Sometimes it still kicks me out of class. I share the Wi-Fi with my sister because her connection doesn’t work for her tablet. I get it from the SFUSD, but I think it is dying or it doesn’t work that well anymore… maybe because I use the computer a lot, and the computer needs Wi-Fi. I always start screaming or get angry because if someone is talking to me, they may think I’m ignoring them. And sometimes it signs out because of the internet, when I’m in class.

Almost everyone reported experiencing some type of internet problem. In the survey, 24% of people were kicked off or had their internet lag a lot when they were in Zoom meetings. Also, 22% of the people said they couldn’t hear their teachers. It seems like peoples’ own internet had better connection than the school hotspots (less serious problems), but both had problems. For school hotspot, the most common problem was getting kicked off a meeting. In summary, the internet can go slow and fast some time.    

Some families don’t have that much money for a faster internet, some don’t have computers for homework or class. But the free internet or the hotspot sometimes doesn’t really work that much. At our school, we can pick up a computer or a hotspot device for free. One student said that the school hotspot really helped her out because her Wi-Fi used to kick her off of class a lot and she didn’t have good internet before. Another student said that her hotspot kicks her off all the time.

Illustration: Isadora

Overall, when someone’s internet doesn’t work well, it affects everyone in the class because it makes it harder to work with classmates.

“I have a good internet and that I can see the videos and join zoom,” said one student, whose family has a more expensive Wi-Fi plan. “I usually have a good class experience but sometimes I see others that don’t have a good internet connection.” 

In summary, families can get a computer and hotspot for free, but if you like to get better at studying, you have to try your best, some of the families need to pay for the computer.

Lastly, too many people on one hotspot can mess up the internet so that it will lag.

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“I have a medium kind of internet, not too fast not to slow. I experience a little bit of trouble with the internet. When it’s not working that well, we have to restart the internet but it happens rarely so we don’t have to restart it every time,” said an anonymous 4th grade student. “The whole house shares the internet so there is a little bit of problems.  

Classes have been alright with the internet, but it sometimes kicks me out and sometimes I can’t hear or it lags a lot…. I hate it when it slows down in the middle of class. It kicks me out so I can’t hear the instructions for class or see what’s happening.”

“It’s too hard to focus in class when your internet is bad,” said another student. “Sometimes the internet goes bad because my cousins who live with me all use the same internet. In some classes I get kicked out. I can’t talk because I’m glitching.”

So if there’re many people on the same hot spot, it can mess with the internet and make you lag and you can’t do homework. Also, 40% of teachers say that their students get kicked off zoom or have trouble connecting every day, and 60% say that their students’ voices or video’s cut out.

This issue is important to us because when we study, we can learn something new and maybe pass a test. We want to study well, get into a good college, have a good job, and start our own business. We want to do our homework and put school first, and then when we’re done with that we can do anything our heart desires to. When we’re older, we want to be video game designers, authors, business owners or veterinarians. In order to achieve this, we need cheaper and better internet.  We need to do virtual school and afterschool programs. It’s not just us, other people, and students in different schools, probably have the same problem like us.

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