We have two honors students who take full time classes during the day and additional online classes nights and weekends so we rely on the
internet very heavily. We do not have cable tv or a home phone as we cannot afford both them and internet service. We currently have the slowest available product from Brighthouse (Roadrunner Lite) which is now $40 a month up from $22 three months ago and we cannot afford to upgrade to their cheapest high speed at $60 a month. Verizon will only allow Fios here which is $69 a month. I want to continue to allow my kids to do their homework as required online but am not sure how. Can someone please tell me why internet has suddenly become so outrageously priced?? How are poor families who want their kids to learn and succeed going to pay for this? How am I? This bill at $480 a year is more than my car insurance, cell phone, water, or electric bills, and I can't quite figure out why it should cost this much. It's never more than $30 for cable, phone, and internet packages in Europe so how can this be? Maybe this is why we as a country are falling behind. Does anyone have any ideas on where or how to get lower priced internet in Florida? I have tried Brighthouse and Verizon and both have said no they don't have any such programs to help families who can't afford their prices but need internet. Very sad.
I understand your concern and it is an issue that affects many. Not everyone can have internet connection at home. It used to be that you could go to the public library and use their computers for a set amount of time to do work and research. Now, you are able to go to many "hotspots" and perhaps there are some in your town or city. The hotspots are usually advertised as 'free' wifi and are publicly available at airports, restaurants, and coffee shops. In my town, Panera Bread has become a gathering location for high school students and others for internet connection. I did find some information about Boingo that you may wish to check out. I imagine there are other services like this. Please understand that I am in no way connected with this particular service, I merely am offering the information in case you were unaware of this option.
The boingo only works at the airport 25 miles from here. The library is closed on Sunday and Monday and closes at 5 or 6 otherwise, but since they don't get home from school until 4:30 and cannot drive themselves, this is useless. I don't live near a Panera, but I find it really sad to have to send kids to a restaurant to get their homework done either way. There is a McDonalds here about 6 miles away but I don't think that is a permanent solution since 85% of their homework assignments are on line. I have no idea how they will cope and what their grades will be when I have to turn the internet off because the price is too high, but I suppose food is more important. Thanks for your reply.
Be sure to inform the school about this inconvenience. Your kids should not be required to access the internet to complete projects and other homework. If they need internet resources, hopefully the school offers scheduling options to be able to use the network during the school day. I found a blog post about being able to use your phone as a hotspot device, not sure if that is an option. There are others in this situation, you are not alone.
There seems to be a big disconnect, (no pun intended), in the school system in what they want to have happen and what they can have happen. I have mentioned it to the school and was told they will need to be driven to the library daily 10 miles 'round trip and get everything done before 6pm when the library closes if we don't have internet access at home. They do not allow the students to use the computers during the day to complete homework because they are sitting in class learning, (thus the term HOMEwork, I suppose), and even if they wanted to, there are not nearly enough computers to accommodate all.
I don't have a smartphone or a laptop that has the programs the kids can access their assignments on. I can only assume the cost of buying a smartphone with 4G and an unlimited dataplan plus a new laptop would cost even more than I'm paying now to do this tethering as described in the blog. Neat though. I do have a desk top that does and a basic cell phone with no internet access. I am certain we are not alone because I've heard others complain about the same thing. Especially those with more than one kid and only one computer fighting over who gets to get their homework done.
I certainly understand your frustration. I found an article that had a few suggestions (some of these have already been mentioned in this discussion):
"Borrow" your neighbors' unprotected wireless connection. Simply turn on your laptop and search for an unprotected internet connection. Once you find one, connect to it, and you have free internet. Just don't do any banking or online purchases on that connection because you're connecting to an unencrypted connection. Please note that this may be illegal in some areas.
Go to a public library. You can usually even use the computers that the library provides, though bringing your own laptop might be more convenient. Note that you will have to sign up for a library card first.
I also wondered if it is possible for your children to remain at school after hours and use the school's internet access. If you have a community college close by, you might be able to use their connection as well.
Thanks Lynne. These free or low-cost providers require a home phone for dial up and I don't have one, (yet another bill), plus they don't run fast enough to play the required videos involved in the online lessons. Either way, the only companies who provide home phone here even if I wanted to are Verizon and Brighthouse. With Brighthouse you need to get internet service to get phone, and Verizon will only sell Fios services at our address which are outrageously priced and out of the question. I've asked my neighbors if they want to "share". No takers, and I haven't found anyone foolish enough to not secure their network in our neighborhood to keep out freeloaders. Either way, I'm not comfortable using someone else's network without permission and I'm sure it's probably illegal and stealing.
I can't really send my kids to the closest restaurant 5 miles away on a daily basis to to their homework. I work until 5 and they can't drive.They're ages 9 and 12 and I don't think that's fair or appropriate for Starbucks either to have to host non-paying minor customers en masse. The school, 6.5 miles away from our house, requires them to leave campus immediately after school, no community college closeby, and the library, (also not close by), closes at 6pm and is closed on Sunday and Monday. Thanks for the thoughts, though. I don't see any way around it. Kids need to do their homework at home to do it well and concentrate.
I suggest you discuss your dilemma with your children's principal. Perhaps he can offer suggestions within your community. Sometimes there is assistance available for parents whose students are taking online courses.
Hope other members have suggestions that they have seen work. I feel your pain and desire to offer your children the best of learning opportunities.
I have a feeling a lot of parents don't bring it up and let their kids get poor grades because it's a big point of embarrassment to not be able to afford the required equipment and the on-going internet expense. I would have thought the problem could be addressed at least to those parents of children who qualify for free lunches since they will be hurt the most since they're least likely to have access to a computer or internet.
I have discussed the internet problem and the answer I received was that "the school has free internet". Great! But that's not where it's being used and that's not where it's needed, nor do they provide computers for students, just staff. I will continue to try, but with budget cuts all around, I just don't think it's a priority with them.
If your school has a high percentage of low income families, share theDigital Wish group with your childrens' teachers and principal. Digital Wish has helped many schools increase the available technology at schools.
We use to talk of the "digital divide" and the "have" and "have nots". This still exists today. Now we talk about schools where students do not readily have access versus students who have unlimited access at home. Both gaps exist and we all have a lot to change.
It is important that teachers know what their students have access to and make adjustments in how work is done. This differentiation is not a negative and all students are entitled to learn.
You have started a good conversation here, and one that many other parents are facing in a strained economy.
Funny you should mention that! The schools here have excellent technology...white boards, iPads, iMacs and recently my son's classroom was granted several Kindles. Not sure why they have to buy the most expensive computers, but at least they're there. The problem is that is where they stay and the kids are not often allowed to touch them and certainly never to use them at home. They do NOT need more technology, especially when they are laying off all the Media Specialists who teach others how to use them and fix them.
Oddly enough, I fully agree that these kids going forward will suffer in the new economy if they do not have access to computers and internet at home. They will not be able to compete in a global environment where others have had access all their lives...the learning curve would be far too large to overcome. I will do anything to prevent that from happening to my kids. So far, they haven't suffered, they have thrived in the on-line environment. I don't want the teachers to change the way they teach or move their lessons off line to accommodate all. It's not practical and doesn't reflect the real world. What I do want is for internet providers to be required by law to offer a standard level of service at a reasonable maximum price of say $1 a day instead of only offering premium "packages" which in themselves are discriminatory. If that is not possible, then the discussion of requiring schools to provide Kindles with wifi for downloadable interactive assignments must be had. Down the road if this is not accomplished, our economy will suffer greatly.
Your children are very lucky to have you as their advocate, momline. They will do fine in life! You have an accurate view of their future, and yes, they will have to function in a global society.
Shauna's advice to "ask and keep asking" is good. Lynne's advice to "think outside of the box" above is good.
What have the rest of you seen work. Do you as teachers expect all students to have Internet access and if they don't what do you do?
Actually, that's how I ended up here... Brighthouse and Verizon are the only two providers for my neighborhood. Verizon doesn't allow you to send emails to anyone. They provide snail mail addresses and the 800 # to customer service. I have called Verizon customer service on nine separate occasions and spoke with nine separate people, none of whom had ever heard of such a thing, all of whom offered me Fios at $69 a month. At least they're consistent.
I emailed and called Brighthouse as well and got many different answers most of which I still have in writing. I got no answer from the President's office, (although I did get an automated reply stating that they would respond within 2 business days...perhaps they should turn that auto-reply off...). One email from customer service stated that Brighthouse no longer participates in Connect2Compete, another said they don't have it in my zip code (???), and a third explained the program to me which I already had all the details of and stated as much in my email but would not confirm or deny that I am actually required to turn off my internet service for 90 days in order to qualify or that it was actually available in my zip code at all. All very strange for a relatively simple question.
The school had never heard of such a thing as free or discount internet...except for the school, not kids. I don't suppose you have any contact information that could lead me to someone who might know something? Either way, I thank you for taking the time to reply and try to help!
An update in case anyone is interested. The regional President of Verizon, Bruce, called me on Friday the 26th and agreed with me that something should be done so that low income kids could do their homework and online classes. A good conversation, I thought. He let me know that Linda from Marketing would be calling me on 4/29. She called me and let me know that Verizon does not partner with any education foundations that provide access to low income kids and the only service available in Fios areas is Fios...at $69 plus fees, taxes, etc. Not sure what the point of these calls was then.
I'm still getting emails from customer service at Brighthouse saying basically the same thing plus, "no you cannot have the promotional rate for new customers. You have to pay $40 a month for Road Runner Lite even though it's not fast enough to run video, (although we can offer you high-speed for $59 plus fees per month), and no we do not have any programs in your area for low income kids."
I think perhaps I should take a different route since clearly these companies don't have an interest in giving access to low income kids. I'm very disappointed in both companies' lack of action even though the agreement with me is there. I'll try my State Representative and the local School Board next and see what happens...someone has to stick up for all these kids, not just mine.
Dear momline, Thanks for posting the update. My state has recently established a new requirement for graduation- an online course. We have some students taking online courses in the middle school I work at. They are provided a computer to use and report to a designated area during the class period they are assigned. Some students are even taking PE virtually. My awareness of the situation for low income kids has increased because of your posts. I appreciate that. I wonder if schools truly understand the dilemma.
Virtual PE? Is that kind of like Wii Sports Resort? Hey, at least the kids are given a computer to use and time on it to actually complete it while at school. I'm sure your state has the students' best interests at heart because they realize online is the way it will be in the future. Here in Florida the state has spent a huge amount of money on Virtual School and the classes are excellent, there just is no way for students to access them at school (where they do have excellent technology, they are just not allowed), and not at all if they have no computer or internet at home. Another parent told me it was because of union rules. The teachers want to keep as many students in the classrooms and off-line as possible so that they do not become redundant and keep their jobs, (although this doesn't seem to keep them from assigning homework which is all online).
I have contacted the Florida Virtual School to make them more aware of the problem and the physical school itself to ask if the computers could be opened up for students to use on an as-needed basis, but the answer so far has been "no" because they do not have the staff with which to supervise the kids while they use the computers and they are not allowed on school grounds after hours. We shall see. Perhaps the rules should be changed that if they allow after school sports on property than the very least they can do is allow kids to use the computers and internet on property after school too. Priorities need to be switched to academics, I think.
momline, I am in Florida as well. Did you know that Florida Virtual school receives the state funding for the students enrolled, but the school must supply computers and tech support? At least this past year. Lots of changes coming forth in the near future that will affect a lot of things.
Really?? Why would "they" not tell me this??? Maybe they wait for parents to track them down and ask...? Although I have asked and have gotten no reply so that can't be it. So 'they' must supply tech support and computers but no internet to access the FL Virtual School classes themselves? All very strange. I hope these 'changes in the near future that will affect a lot of things' will be changes in a good way, but given the sad budgetary situation somehow I have my doubts. I thank you for your reply, Jeanne. This is truly enlightening!
I want to be sure I said this right. We have students enrolled in FL Virtual School. They attend classes at their local school (public or charter) and in my school district, the district provides the internet access, the school provides the computers to be used at the school and the 'space' to work. It is my understanding that often times the student needs to 'be online' just to get assignments and then they actually work offline on assignments. The number of students taking online classes is constantly increasing. I do not know how the District plans to address this in the future.
Perhaps this is where we're falling through the cracks, then. My 12 year old daughter takes a full day of classes in school and then takes FL Virtual classes in addition to her full coursework because she is enrolled in an ESE Gifted program for kids with high IQs. She is technically a 6th grader but is taking 7th Grade Advanced classes both in school and required 7th Grade classes online simply because the in-school pace is too far below her ability level. She has taken 3 FL Virtual school classes in the time space of one in-school year-long class in addition to those from last year and will then be considered an 8th Grader - Advanced/Gifted in the fall rather than a 7th Grader Advanced. I can guess, then that in her particular case, as an ESE student, her curriculum must be piecemeal or else she would be too unchallenged and bored. Are the rules for ESE students any different as it pertains to FL Virtual?
It is very unfortunate that Internet has to cost so much! You bring up a good point how other services like cable and insurance cost less. I don't think this will help in your situation since you only have Verizon and Brighthouse, but this might help others.
I have just started using Cricket and was overjoyed when I found out that I could get a plan that has unlimited mobile calls, text and Internet all for under $70. I was with another provider and for the same plan it cost me $150 to have unlimited data with tethering to my laptop. Now I can use my Cricket phone as a hotspot and have Internet through my mobile phone. Since I can get Internet through my phone, I got rid of my home Internet which was about $40 and my $150 mobile bill in exchange for a $70 plan with Cricket. I am saving $120 a month! I know I sound like a commercial, but I was just so excited I discovered this. Plus with Cricket I don't have any sign up or cancellation fees. So I can just pay for my phone the months I will need it.
I know the $70 a month is probably still too high so I hope you are able to work something out with your local community. If I were your neighbor, you could log onto my Wifi;) I have had 2 neighbors who have allowed me to use their Wifi so it can't hurt to ask. They might have a soft spot when they hear your story. Good luck!
Good thought! They should also know that Virgin Mobile has unlimited texting and data plus no contract for $35 a month. You only get 300 minutes, however, you can download an Android MagicJack app which allows you to make unlimited calls for free. My husband has this plan and loves it.
I'm still rather stumped because I don't have a laptop that is loaded with Windows 7 to run all the online class software and my husband has the phone for work and travels constantly so it would mean buying a laptop a smartphone and subscribing to new cell service. Plus I have 2 kids doing homework at the same time so double all that plus cost of wireless cards for the desktops I do have...not a bargain.
I did get an email back today from Brighthouse, still not answering my question about whether it's even available in my zip code but at least verifying that Connect2Compete does exist...somewhere. They let me know, however, that I could not be a Brighthouse customer for 90 days in order to be eligible. How does this make sense? I need to disconnect my internet and my kids from their homework and online classes....so I can reconnect it in 90 days so they can do their homework and online classes. WHAT??
Thanks for your idea and I'm sure it will help somebody!