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Some families report obstacles to internet access, despite being “essential” during pandemic

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Several U.S. parents say their children may face digital obstacles transitioning to school online, despite over half of Americans reporting internet access is “essential” during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

With nationwide stay-at-home orders and schools being moved online, about 53% of U.S. adults say the internet has been a crucial resource during the pandemic, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center. Another 34% say the internet is “important, but not essential.”

The shift online has rekindled debates on how the digital divide affects different Americans from completing school work — and whether low-income families can overcome these digital obstacles. 

Schoolwork

Many parents with lower incomes report it’s likely their children will face these obstacles while trying to complete schoolwork online. 

According to the study, roughly 43% of lower-income families report they’ll have to complete their required work on their cellphone.  Another 40% report they may have to use public WiFi because they don’t have a reliable internet connection at home.

About 36% say they won’t be able to complete schoolwork at all because they don’t have a computer at home. 

Smartphones

Some Americans are also worried about paying their internet bills over the coming months, the survey found.

About 28% of those with high-speed internet connection are worried about paying for service for the next few months. In addition, 30% of smartphone users cite some worries about paying their cellphone bills. 

Despite these concerns, a majority of Americans say they think internet access has been essential during the pandemic. Overall, most U.S. adults say it’s had a positive impact. 

Roughly 90% of U.S. adults say the internet has “mostly been a good thing” for themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 78% say they think it’s been a positive thing for both themselves and society.