The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more reliant on the internet than ever before. And while it has served as an essential tool for staying connected with our friends, family and colleagues, it has also proven especially important for one particular group of Louisianans – students.

Louisiana students were in the middle of finishing up their school year when their learning schedule was disrupted by the state shutdown. As school districts did their best to adapt to a new distance learning environment, they found many of their students couldn’t access online materials. This was due to a combination of students either not having computing devices at home or not being able to get an internet connection.

Many of the students lacking access to a connection are from rural areas of the state. Until these students are connected, they risk falling behind. They’re missing valuable time in the classroom with their peers and teachers, and they’re unable to stay engaged during this downtime.

If we want to bridge the digital divide and get Louisiana students connected, we must break down government barriers to broadband deployment. Fortunately, the recently concluded legislative session saw legislators working harder than ever before to pass legislation that identified government barriers to internet deployment. The near-unanimous support for this legislation showed the widespread recognition among lawmakers of the importance of these connections.

We’re off to a great start, but more remains to be done. The Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation produced a new video, which underscores the importance of broadband connections for Louisiana students. Watch and share the video and sign the petition to Connect Louisiana Students!

If we all work together and continue calling for policies to get students connected, all Louisiana children can have access to a school that best fits their needs, whether it’s online or in-person.