Lack of internet access in rural Louisiana spells trouble for parents during coronavirus

Distance learning offers significant challenges for those in rural La. parishes

(WAFB) - For years Louisiana’s lack of access to broadband internet has plagued residents in rural parts of the state, now it’s impacting how children are being educated as schools have been shutdown for the remainder of the semester.

It is an issue that plays out in the Lindsey’s house every day. They live outside of St. Francisville, Louisiana and rely on hotspots that provide internet through their cell service.

“We have to have 10 devices here in order to do all of these things and it’s very costly to do that,” said Tim Lindsey.

Lindsey said he would rather spend the money on broadband, an internet connection that would be far more reliable for him and his six kids, but that option is not available.

Until that service is available, his family’s has to rely on the spotty service that comes with the hotspots, and that’s less than convenient when it comes to the children having to complete school work.

“When you have a wife trying to do a video lesson and you have six kids that are doing remote learning it’s really challenging,” Lindsey said.

This is a problem many face in West Feliciana Parish.

“I would say it’s probably less than 50 percent that have access to the internet,” said Torrance Williams, principal at Bain’s Lower Elementary.

Williams sees first hand the impact of poor internet connectivity has.

His school, along with the rest of the schools in the parish, have resorted to providing students with learning materials in paper form to ensure they do not fall behind during the closure.

“We’re able to talk to them on the phone but they don’t necessarily have access to zoom or to be able to do the internet or other types of calls,” Williams said. “It’s been hard.”

Earlier this year the USDA announced plans to expand rural access to broadband but that was only for three parishes, not including West Feliciana.

Williams hopes the issues that are being brought to light during these shutdowns highlights the need rural areas have for internet access.

“I would absolutely hope that someone is working diligently to get more internet access to our kids,” he said. “I think it’s a necessity at this point.”

For now, though, it appears help is not coming anytime soon.

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