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School districts are sending WiFi-equipped buses to poor and rural neighborhoods (thehustle.co)
145 points by Anon84 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

A nice idea, but my experience working with poor kids has led me to believe lack of access to resources is not the biggest issue these kids face. The biggest issue is lack of good parents.

My next door neighbor is 11 years old. He has basically dropped out of middle school. Even before covid-19 he was constantly truant. Now that school has moved to online, he doesn't attend at all. His math teacher e-mailed me (I had previously contacted her to get a copy of his curriculum) and asked if he had access to a computer and WiFi because he hadn't attended a single online Zoom session. I assured her he did as I could hear him playing Fortnite all hours of the night. He often comes over for snacks at 10 pm. I ask whether he's had dinner and he claims his mom doesn't make dinner until 12 or 1 am. I ask what time he goes to bed and he replies "7 or 8 am". I've tried to motivate him to do Khan Academy courses for rewards, but his mom always undermines me. For example, I promised to buy him a Dragonball Z game if he completed the 6th grade math module on exponents. Half-way through the course he announced his mom bought him the game and he lost all motivation to continue. Even money doesn't seem to have much effect unless there is something he currently wants to buy. This happens every time though - his mom doesn't encourage school at all. She can't help him because (I'm pretty sure) she dropped out herself. There's no dad in the picture, and any motivation I try to use to get him to learn stuff gets instantly gratified by his mom.

So basically, we have this kid with an inverted sleep schedule who is years behind his peers, has access to everything he needs to be successful, except parents who care about his future, and thus he is on a trajectory to fail.

> A nice idea, but my experience working with poor kids has led me to believe lack of access to resources is not the biggest issue these kids face. The biggest issue is lack of good parents.

Very nearly everyone in, around, or who has even remotely studied the field knows that social context (which includes but is not limited to parents) is the biggest issue for these kids in general. That's not even remotely controversial.

But, aside from the fact that most of that is outside of the scope of school district authority to address, the WiFi busses aren't even in theory about fixing their general long-term issues, but are to mitigate the degree to which the gap gets worse as schools temporarily switch to online instruction due to COVID-19. The second-hand article currently linked as the main one for HN doesn't make this explicit, but the one that it links as it's source does: https://www.routefifty.com/tech-data/2020/05/buses-wifi-broa...

I agree this is an issue in poor areas.

As another anecdote, my wife grew up in a poor housing estate in central Scotland, in a household with bad parents and some domestic violence. There was a fair bit of violence and drugs in the area too.

Almost everyone in the area was claiming at least some kind of benefit, and benefit fraud was absolutely rife.

I got to know the extended family quite well over time. Almost every parent seemed determined to continue the cycle of poverty, and pushed their children to sign up for a council house as soon as they were 16. Fraudulent tactics were often used to get their kids further up the waiting list, or to get their kids into newer/better housing once they had a house. One father set fire to his daughter's house with the hope she'd be moved into a better house. Another smashed in the windows of his son's house, so they could claim he was in danger from imaginary drug dealers in the area.

My wife (and indeed her brother) were however determined to get a decent education and do better, in spite of their parents.

She applied to university, but her mother hid the acceptance letter and tried to push her into a crappy low/paid job and a council house.

Thankfully my wife came across the letter my chance, and her life has been very different from that of her parents.

I've seen this effect often in various forms.

If Bob and Ted start at the same point, and Bob becomes more successful than Ted, Ted will try to undermine Bob's success. The reason is Ted blames circumstance for his failure, and Bob's success makes it hard for Ted to blame circumstance. By undermining Bob's success, Ted can comfortably continue to blame circumstance.

I have a book suggestion for you if you are interested in learning more about this. I grew up in Scotland and I am very familiar with what you are talking about.


Feel free to not respond as this might be too personal, but I'm very interested. Does your wife keep in contact with her mother? Presumably yes, as you have gotten to know them?

This all happened a long while back, but yes, she has kept in touch all that time. But they don't get on at all, and have a very turbulent relationship. I think she feels a sense of familial duty more than anything else.

It was definitely truly horrible to read that her mom hid her acceptance letter from her. What sort of thing would make someone do that? What kind of person doesn’t wish best for their children, and tries to make their life bad instead? It’s just too much.

While nowhere near GP's example, I come from a working class background where this metafor feels instantly fitting. Perhaps the middle ages made it so that groups who did not pull their peers back down died out / were killed by the ruling classes.

Really that toxic dynamic is also explained by reproductive habits - everyone not desirable for having X looks bad in comparison. It is a way deeper mental flaw in humanity along with rationalizing obviously terrible things to avoid cognitive dissonance and extra effort.

I'm in an interesting position where I come from the white-collar upper middle class, but work with a lot of 1st generation white-collars. That mentality sticks even among some of those who manage to elevate themselves.

For instance, I'm recently married and the wife and I are looking into starting a family. My co-workers know we want kids, and while about 75% are supportive, there's a couple who have marital/family issues who feed me a daily stream of [insert story about how messed up their marriage/kids are] followed by "so, you sure you still want kids?" in a half-serious tone.

It's a minor annoyance and I just commiserate with the miserable story and laugh it off. But, while I know I'm not supposed to judge as a non-parent there's a few glaringly, blindingly obvious failures of well-intentioned but horribly executed parenting/marriage handling in these stories that set my teeth on edge. Stuff even my parents for all their weaknesses would never have done. When I try to politely nudge back on some of the more egregious points I just get ignored and they keep talking, even when I'm backed up by one of the parents in my team. They seem convinced that they're doing everything the best way it could possibly be done and there's no behavior change on their part that could make it better. On a possibly related note, they're also the team members with the worst health and some of the messiest (if technically functional) code I've ever read. I always wondered where that mentality came from, reading this thread has shed some light on that, given what I know about how they grew up.

> That mentality sticks

this seems pretty entitled / clasist in this particular context - many in 'the white-collar upper middle class' are precisely the ones with arguments against having families out of personal preference and those most visibly displaying their preference for other lifestyle choices (after all, if one can afford retirement, one doesn't need a family to support them)

Well we're talking about blue-collar vs white-collar, so naturally I'm painting with broad strokes here, and this is all anecdotal. In my experience the people who have tried to hold me back from my objectives the most have come from blue-collar backgrounds. I'm not saying that everyone I've met from a blue-collar background has done so, just that of the people who have done so most have been from blue-collar backgrounds.

And come to think of it the financial reasons you mention (retirement) is probably one contributing factor from a cultural perspective. If you lack the independent wealth to look after your own interests then you must naturally pool resources with others. If others leave/do their own thing/do better than you that's saying, in a sense, that they don't want to pool resources with you, even if you'd reciprocate. That feeling probably sucks.

On the other hand if you're well off enough on your own, someone going off and doing their own thing/striving for better isn't a rejection or a denial of needed resources. So it can be supported, event celebrated.

Once again, painting with broad strokes. It is possible to point out trends without saying that everyone in a given group subscribes to said trend.

Easy, firstly being poor isn't necessarily a bad life, I see a lot more unhappy rich people than poor people. Secondly if you think the children will have a better life will force you to admit you have a bad life and you're doing things wrong. Thirdly a different life will mean your kids will be different and wont fit in so well, wont be around so much and might not like you - is that what you really want?

While being poor may not lead to an unhappy life, having high income volatility will.

And in the US, low income and high income volatility go hand in hand. You can have your hours reduced or shifted at any time, your industry can get outsourced or automated, you may be deemed to be too old or expensive.

No one is happy with volatility, and no one today should expect to go to work and punch in and out for 30 years, especially if you’re on the lower end of the pay scale. You should be looking out for better opportunities all the time, lest your cash flow suddenly stops.

> firstly being poor isn't necessarily a bad life

No, not necessarily. But at least where my wife grew up in the Scottish central belt, I think that would be the exception rather than the rule - and by a pretty wide margin.

I think a lack of education played a big part in that, but the most disappointing and frightening thing was that so many parents expected - almost bred - their children to repeat the same cycle of limited education, poverty, benefit fraud, crime, drugs and violence.

Imagine a college educated family of anti war hippies whose son applies to West Point. I don’t think you’d be shocked to hear that a parent hid the acceptance letter.

Very simply, that Family doesn’t consider a university education to be “better” for their kid, they consider it to be worse.

Man, that is sad. "You get more of what you subsidize."

If you look past the comedy, this is exactly how the show Trailer Park Boys works. Deep down, the show is about the cycle of poverty.

That sounds accurate.

Conversely, there are also poor people that still care about education and use what they have to push their kids to succeed.

In the late 1990s, I lived near an apartment block with many Vietnamese immigrants who were poor (worked at min. wage or below in asian restaurants for crazy long hours), knew very little English, and they had almost no stuff since they arrived with a few suitcases. Despite this, most of their kids ended up graduating, and those who got scholarships went to community college or state college and those that couldn’t got jobs to support their families. These kids had few resources, but they had a work ethic. They had a lot of responsibility from a young age.

The neighbors of those kids whose parents were poor and already Americans (raised here) - those kids turned out more like your neighbor. Zero motivation, zero responsibility, parents gave such little of a shit about everything, dropped out of school, and held random min. wage jobs in brief spurts until they would get fired for no-showing.

Idk...it was such a jarring contrast to see. Both groups started poor from the same place, yet one group turned themselves into something and the other group just already gave up without even trying.

I think there is a strong selection among the immigrant group. People immigrate because they want a better life for themselves and their kids, and are willing to work for that.

If the American group was people of colour, they would have a family history of everything being stolen or destroyed even if they actually did better.

This is barely the third generation since the civil rights act was implemented, and social change takes far longer than that.

Given that the immigrants were Vietnamese I'd posit that that very history also applied to them in their home country in the 1970s (causing them to flee for their lives and end up in America). And yet somehow they didn't have the same mentality.

No, you have one generation of people who have suffered from external causes, not a series of generations who have repeatedly had their economic gains destroyed.

At some point, the goal stops being growth and turns to survival.

I know the real world is full of complications but there is one historic counter example which immediately comes to mind - Jewish people. They have a way long history where only having their economic gains destroyed would qualify as fortunate and was essentially a baseline with only Christians having inheritance. For over a millenium no less.

This isn't a "model minority good/underperforming ones deserve their suffering" sort of one but to point out that just repeated gain destruction and even discrimination and stigma aren't foregone doom.

The Jews were still allowed to do certain jobs. They certainly weren't the lowest paid jobs, with crappy education forced upon them. I am not aware that the Jews were enslaved for multiple generations while being denied education and cultural retention.

There was a study a while ago that found a correlation between book ownership in a child’s house and educational achievement. So some municipality (can’t remember which) kickstarted a program to mail a few age appropriate books to kids in their per month.

The result was no change. It turned out that the actual cause wasn’t books, it was parents who would value books enough to purchase them. Buying books for children whose parents hadn’t valued reading and education enough to already own some books didn’t help at all.

I have to admit that this sounded apocryphal to me because it’s an almost-too-convenient illustration of a general point, but a quick search at least turned up the original study:


As with most things in life, it’s a multi-layered problem. Mass media tends to simplify the issue to a single headline that’s usually along the lines of “we can fix everything if we solve X!” because that gets you clicks. Everyone wants to believe that there’s a magic bullet to solve Y.

Taking your experience, you’ve run into a different layer of the issue. If you’ve heard about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[1], then you might recognize this as being an issue at the psychological level (esteem needs). It sounds like this child has their basic needs already met (not poor). So your anecdote provides a useful data point but doesn’t disprove the need to solve for the problem of basic needs.

A lot of people are trying to tackle the resource need simply because it would have the largest visible impact. However, it would be really nice if the media acknowledged that the problem isn’t so simple and that this is just step 0.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

The wifi provides an opportunity for someone outside of the home to "babysit" the kids. In can provide improvement at the margin, if managed well.

Also, people have greed that can be exploited. If you want to continue your (admirable!) effort you can offer a different bribe.

Another point to note is that if the kid got halfway through the chapter on exponents, he's doing pretty well! Failure at math education means years behind, not weeks behind.

from this brief blurb, I find myself wondering whether the mom is deliberately thwarting your efforts. your actions essentially imply that she isn't doing a good job parenting. probably true, but she may resent that signal. you've already gone above and beyond your duty as a neighbor, but have you tried talking to the mom directly?

I don't think she's doing it maliciously, I think she is just easily guilted/convinced to buy her kids stuff when they want it (she also has a daughter older than the son who always has the latest iPhone, so it's not unique to the boy). They don't have much money (they are on both SNAP and HOC), but enough for short term luxuries like smartphones and video/computer games.

> have you tried talking to the mom directly?

I have not talked to her directly, though I'm starting to come to the same conclusion that it is necessary if I want to help her son. I'm slightly apprehensive that it might be a touchy subject though and I'm not the best at confrontation.

It is a touchy subject, so I would not talk about her actions "you do X, please stop". At all.

Maybe say that you met her son, he is a nice kid, you have some experience teaching kids and would like to help him get through the class Y. What does she think?

One step at a time, and start with a small one. My 2c.

> A nice idea, but my experience working with poor kids has led me to believe lack of access to resources is not the biggest issue these kids face. The biggest issue is lack of good parents.

That's an important point, not made often enough.

Still. The school district can't replace parents, but they can provide WiFi.

I agree that poor role models and bad influences negatively affect kids, whether poor or not. However, from my wife’s experience teaching at Title I schools, many of these kids DO have the motivation to do well in their classes.

What is glaringly apparent to teachers at these schools is the inequity due to lack of resources (poor parents and poor school funding). Many of these kids do not have access to internet, do not have access to computers, and rely on their schools to provide them with regular meals.

Parents are not the only important part of the equation here.

And yet we were all educated without internet and computers!

Let's put it this way

1) motivated parents with poor school funding = most likely success

2) unmotivated parents with great school funding = demonstratably bad outcome

> 2) unmotivated parents with great school funding = demonstratably bad outcome

Demonstrably not true. There are plenty of people with poor parental role models who did well in school and broke the cycle.

Technology drops the threshold that the disadvantaged students have to overcome. Whereas before they needed to be lucky enough to have a great school library or transportation to the municipal libraries every time they wanted to go, now they just need internet access. Governments and schools can't do anything to give the kids motivation or better parents, but they can work on the technology angle and remove more barriers to success. There will never be a single solution to the myriad of problems facing education - this is marathon that requires solving one problem at a time.

I would hesitate to say that with just a bit of tech access, kids can break the cycle. I lived with parents who were educationally poor and never involved in my school work. I saw other people with similar backgrounds as I had (maybe even more educated parents) and they never broke the cycle.

I think it takes something special to truly break the cycle and move upwards. I don’t see many people do it. Then again, I came from one of the worst schools and towns in my state and now live in SV where everyone was a rich kid. I check Facebook to see if any alumni from my HS ever got anywhere. Nope...

I don't think anybody is saying just giving out tech will break the cycle for everyone. But giving out tech can make it easier for many to break the cycle or at least move into a marginally better situation than their parents.

Why not just solve the root of the problem? Encourage/bribe the parents to support the kids.

How about tying child tax credits kickers to attendance and grades?

My personal observations have led me to think that a lot of life's problems can be simplified to "poverty sucks".

At least his mom is not selling his donated clothes for pill money.

I have a friend that works as a teacher at a Title I school, and some of the students they try to help (clean clothes and shoes that fit), the parent will take the donated clothing and literally sell it for money.

That's terrible! It really irks me when parents do not encourage education to their children.

Not to critique your selfless efforts too much, but try to instill an intrinsic love of learning in him. Developing an extrinsic motivation for learning ( a video game) is likely to back fire

I've tried, it's really hard though. At one point I started reading him a chapter from Harry Potter per day in the hope it would get him hooked on reading like it did for me. Well, it did get him hooked on the story, but since his reading skills were so low he would never read on his own so instead he begged his mom to rent the movies, and he promptly binge watched all 8 movies and proudly announced all the spoilers he knew. He also wasn't interested in hearing me read to him from Harry Potter anymore after that despite me hinting that the books were far superior to the movies.

And the flip side of this is that if you have really dedicated parents then they can often overcome huge amounts (although not unbounded amounts) of privation to help their children succeed. I had a Vietnamese cleaning lady who would bring her kid with her to clean my house. While she cleaned she would be asking him math questions from a sheet of paper she had in her shirt with the answers. She’d read out something like “73 times 27” and the kid would get working on it and he would have to do it until he got it right. No treats or video games or money offered.

I think people should go to prison for shit like this.The cost to the society of such a person throughout their life is astronomical.

Oh good, now we have two problems... parents in prison and a kid without parents.

I’m genuinely shocked at the idea that anyone thinks more prison will solve issues like this.

When someone wishes to use prison they are just voicing their frustration at perceived injustice. Same reason some people want to send bankers to prison despite no court having proved their guilt.

The real challenge is that the tools available to is, as a society, to punish perceived injustice are very few. We have fines, prison, and social stigma. You won’t get far with fines for a person already on social assistance. Social stigma is a non-starter in our climate; she’s a single mother trying so hard for her kids! This either leaves prison (as bad of an idea as that is) or admitting that we have not criminalized bad parenting and some people will absolutely RUIN their kids’ lives.

Just giving you context because it’s easy to roll your eyes at someone (“that dummy wants to send her to prison lol”) when I believe there is a deeper explanation.

That’s a fair and nuanced argument. I will caution though that “they should be in prison” goes from a frustrated response to actual policy quite quickly for some demographics.

Well I do agree that it was somewhat simplistic comment from my side. In reality,I'm not even sure what would work best: a school dropout not encouraging their kids to read or learn in general is catch 22 situation, because they won't know how the life would have been for them should they continued to attend the school. If you fail to see all the opportunities that could have opened because of education, it can be hard to tell your kids to do it. So in such situation, either the parents pull their shit together and do what they need to do, as responsible parents,or the state intervenes to help them,or if the help doesn't work, punish somehow.

It’s a tricky problem, for certain.

In some ways, we do have a punishment system for parents with truant children, but it’s very hard to thread a line that’s actually good for the children. You want to scare the parents with punishment if they don’t have any intrinsic (or social) interest in educating their children, but actually jailing parents won’t help most kids one bit.

It doesn't need to be just prison.Fines would do the job to some degree as well. It was ok to slap kids 20-30 years ago,while now it's pretty much illegal to do so.Is there no slapping anymore?No, some kids still get it, unfortunately,but there's definitely less of it across the board. Failure to provide your own kids a safe, and at least in some way, motivated path to education is failing them for life. It is absolutely devastating to see generation after generation growing like this.'Me need no book bruv' is an absolute norm in certain communities.

Maybe instead of slapping the kids we should be slapping the parents.

(Unfortunately this idea wouldn't work, since many of the slapped parents would doubtlessly slap their kids in retaliation.)

This problem mostly impacts the poor. You're going to fine them? That isn't going to solve the problem either and will probably create even more problems.

I guess if it works for them, they see no reason to change. Free housing, food, money for the luxuries they want, what more could someone ask for? The 'successful' people work themselves to death and stress out to gain some things that are a bit nicer, but not enough to justify all the bother.

WiFi is an essential utility in 2020. When we shut down schools for Covid19 and scaled up from 7 to 11 grade levels of students using Chromebooks at home that was a major struggle for some families. It’s apparent that a number of families -esp. those with younger kids (new Chromebook recipients) or free/reduced status live in a “digital desert”. Subsidized housing /trailer parks here don’t have WiFi. For many of these families paying rent and putting food on the table is a major struggle. Busses are a creative option but we don’t have a good “unlimited data” provider for hotspots. One hotspot loaned out had 130GB of use for the month. It was used for two students and 6 additional family members.

I don’t want to hurt your valid point — you’re dead on. But many state contracts, like Oregon’s, mandate unlimited data.

Even we on HN are using 'WiFi' like this now?

The choice to sat “WiFi” rather than “internet” made me pause too, but in this case I think it is appropriate. If you only have access to a cheap laptop or tablet, a wired or cellular connection on its own won’t help you get to the information you need. WiFi is now the lowest common denominator of internet access, and that’s worth recognizing.

In my experience, cheap laptops are more likely to still have ethernet ports, just like how cheap smartphones are more likely to have headphone jacks.

Just give them cheap cellular-equipped laptops instead. Take advantage of the networks that are already in place - no wifi necessary.

Have people forgot that hotspots still exist? T-Mobile still allows it.

One phone can serve multiple nearby devices.

You’re right about cheap laptops, but there are still (AFAICT) plenty or WiFi-only chromebooks, which is the big thing in education. Also tablets, kindles, nintendos...

I agree with the suggestion that using the cellular network is the way to go, I just think that turning that cellular data into WiFi will allow more devices to connect, and more freedom in how people choose to use their connection. So I would suggest portable cellular-to-WiFi routers rather than building the cellular connection into a laptop.

None of my Chromebooks or MacBooks have ever had an Ethernet port. I have a somewhat older Lenovo that has one, as does a monster 17" Alienware. But they're definitely not common in any portable devices.

Is it 'E-mail' or 'email', or 'Internet' or 'internet'?

I don't care, I think that would be much more pedantic than drawing a distinction between [wW]i-?[fF]i and [iI]nternet access.

(Other than for consistency: a publisher should have a style guide entry on it, but it doesn't bother me what they choose.)

Both those examples are cases of what often tends to happen with new terms. They're capitalized and often hyphenated (rather than making up a new word).

But over time, you end up with something like "Open Source Big Data products delivered over the Internet" which gets pretty silly or you have hyphens all over the place which look pretty ugly. Where I work, our style is to generally eliminate both whenever possible.

I guess WiFi is properly Wi-Fi but hardly anyone uses that these days.

I don't think anyone is trying to draw a distinction about how the term Wi-Fi is stylized. (My own usage is what Google decides to use for voice dictation). The question being posed is whether we use 'Wi-Fi' as a term meaning internet access.

And like email and internet, I'm ambivalent (as long as in the case of a publisher there's internal consistency) - this is about the meaning of wifi/WiFi/Wi-Fi, whether it's WLAN or WAN.

I need to bookmark this for the June county broadband task force meeting. A point was raised at the last meeting that building a WISP may be the least impractical step forward to fill coverage gaps. With our local government budgets being slashed beyond survivable levels right now any effort would have to be by private finance alone incrementally. Difficulty funding due to COVID-19 even minimal policing and fire services puts broadband at a lower priority in officials minds right now.

I'd be happy to help with this in any way I can. I run startyourownisp.com, email in my profile.

In my districts the busses are running their normal route at lunch time and any students who need a meal can come get a sack lunch.

This is a great idea!! We need to give these poor and low-income urban and rural students as much opportunity to "get connected" as we can. There are many thousands of gifted students out there whose potential is untapped, and I think this is a great opportunity to accelerate education and foster growth.

This, too, would help with the learn-to-code movement (a skills gap that I consider essential to close). This could have far-reaching effects and do wonders to lift the next generation of poor out of poverty and into more lucrative white collar jobs.

It is a great idea, but it's also a testament to the sorry state of our nation's internet infrastructure caused by telecoms that are free both from competition and from being regulated as the essential utilities they are (the latter thanks to Ajit Pai's cronyist FCC).

Maybe you can find solace in the fact that Germany, which allegedly breathes engineering, suffers from much the same fate. The internet in the large cities is good (not great, but good), in the smaller cities it's a mixed bag, but largely okay, and in the rural parts it's usually a joke.

It appears that it is not an issue that's unique to the US, but common in the "old" Western democracies. Friends tell me it's not much different in rural Spain and France.

Rural Spain and France are a lot less dense than rural Germany though.

There's really no excuse for the state of broadband and cell coverage in your country. I lived two years in Mitte in Berlin, and I couldn't even make a phone call from my place! To add insult to the injury the BMVI was just around the corner; billboards about Gigabit broadband by 2025 reminded me everyday the country is 10 years behind where it could afford to be.

Yeah, it's a shame. There's lots of hope that mobile internet will fix it, but we've had the same hope with 3G and 4G.

Part of the problem is the goalposts move. The cellular data connection you can get in many places (though, of course, not everywhere) is probably a lot faster than back when WiMAX was being promoted as the fix for the last mile problem. And typical cellular data caps today would mostly look like all the bandwidth in the world going back 15 years or whatever.

Now, a lot of people don't think they have "real" broadband if everyone in the household can't be streaming Netflix at 4K simultaneously without any meaningful caps or throttling.

The issue in Germany is that we're somewhat behind on mobile traffic caps as well. It's gotten a lot better recently, but it's still on the high end in Europe on traffic/cost.

That's surprising to me; I've always heard that it's better in Europe.

It's possible that our definitions of "great", "good", "okay", and "a joke" are different. "Good" in the US is 50mbps. "Okay" is 20mbps. "A joke" often means there's no actual hard line, and you have to use a satellite-based ISP instead.

Those definitions work here as well. There's the occasional outlier where you'll get fiber for a competitive price, but 50mbps is usually what you'll be able to get in a large city. Next up is 16/2.4, which most Germans can get. In rural areas, it's 6 or 3mbps, but if you're unlucky, you can also be stuck on that speed in a major city.

This has been getting somewhat better by cable providers getting in on the action, but they have their own sets of challenges, like CGNAT, shared bandwidth and generally problematic contracts & customer service.

Seems like it would be a better idea just to subsidise these homes with a regular wired connection...

Lots of areas are unable to get any sort of wired connection for any amount of money.

My parents live in a rural area just outside of Silicon Valley and there is no fiber, cable, or DSL Internet service available at any price. The only options are satellite and Verizon cellular.

Yep. That’s most of the country by land area. Someone I follow on twitter just started construction on a licensed wireless backhaul to his house. Took months to even get the time of day from the ISP and it’s costing thousands of dollars to install.

Ah, WiFi trucks make more sense in that case. I was assuming that wired connections were available, just not affordable.

From what I understand, wired infrastructure is really expensive to roll out, due to all the property rights that need to be negotiated.

I think expenditures such as these, aimed directly at enabling community members to be more equal in terms of their ability to participate in the modern world and give themself a hand up are fantastic.

Bring more of these types of tax expenditures IMO.

Hear hear. We need a new rural electrification act that pushes fiber to every nook and cranny of the country.

Though unlike electricity, it's going to be increasingly practical to deliver decent internet speeds via cellular and satellite. So I'm not sure that pushing wired connections to every individual house is the best approach at this point.

There is no better incentive than having to compete against subsidized fiber.

Of course, a lot of that subsidy will come from more urban areas. Which I'm mostly fine with but I imagine a lot of people here are probably not.

That’s not how the REA works. It provides loans to rural electric cooperatives at reasonable interest rates.

Living in society is not free of cost.

Certainly. I'm just remarking that one sees a lot of negativity here, presumably from city dwellers, with respect to infrastructure subsidies for more spread out areas.

Subsidized wireless is better.

Lot more bandwidth with fiber.

Not with arbitrary limits on monthly data transfer amounts.

Way better to spend tax money on this than more bombs

In my experience implementing online learning in higher education in Peru showed that for most poor families wi-fi time is gold, no matter the context/situation. Student would connect as soon as they get into campus and work on things for her mother, father, uncles etc. From banking to social services, to buying things that are not available in local stores (mostly gifts or kids' toys). Work is done for family in between classes when time permits. I'm not surprised that kids at any age do the same (at school or in a bus) elsewhere.

Seeing this, along with another top-level comment that what kids really lack is good parents, approaches for what broadly looks like "poverty" need to be different in developed vs. developing countries. People are poor for different reasons.

Controversial opinion but I think stopping poor irresponsible people from becoming parents is a better solution because

A. It requires less resources for the society.

B. It is better for the kid to not exist than to end up with a miserable life. Crime statistics for poor dysfunctional households doesn't look good.

C. Overpopulation is a problem. Even if you can feed 12 billion people, at what cost. And you can already feed that many. The problem is often political and societal (stopping food waste can solve global hunger). If someone can suggest a solution, I am all ears.

D. Lower population will lead to better reforms and more attention or investment per kid. It will be easier to move forward policies and test things. Democracy won't be a bottleneck but will work for once.

the end goal of "only good parents have children" is a good one, but there are a lot of issues with implementing this in the real world, especially if it involves directly intervening in human reproductive choices.

> B. It is better for the kid to not exist than to end up with a miserable life. Crime statistics for poor dysfunctional households doesn't look good.

this is more a philosophical position than an objective fact, but I am inclined to agree with you. that is, if you could be certain that someone would have a terrible life, it would be better for them not to be born. the problem is the error bar on your good life vs. bad life projection. while the odds might be pretty bad for the group, individuals born in bad circumstances can and do become wealthy, achieve success in their field, and/or end up living generally happy lives.

> C. Overpopulation is a problem. Even if you can feed 12 billion people, at what cost. And you can already feed that many. The problem is often political and societal (stopping food waste can solve global hunger). If someone can suggest a solution, I am all ears.

overpopulation is not really a problem in the developed world, where birthrates tend to be at or slightly below replacement.

the real problem with this idea is who "poor irresponsible people" turn out to be in practice. I won't speak to "irresponsible", as I'm not sure what to use as a source, but minorities are disproportionately represented among the poor. it's hard to see how this wouldn't end up disproportionately preventing minority children from being born. there's also the question of how you would prevent these people from having children in the first place, without using some very dystopian methods.

The Guardian had a very interesting series on literacy in the UK. There was a paragraph about a teacher,who asked each kid to bring one book from home. One girl brought an Argos catalog.When explained by the teacher that it's not a book,the girl told the teacher that this was the only one she could find at home. These kids have no chances if the parents are like this and most likely is the biggest hurdle as opposed to the lack ofWifi or any other issue.

The govt approached our three cellphone providers to zero rate all educational websites so that no data cost is incurred when using them.

So why can't US providers not do this ???.

When I read articles like this I wonder whether mesh networking (a la the One Laptop Per Child project) might help with improving the reach of WiFi in underserved areas?

Could anyone with more knowledge of the topic explain why mesh networking seems to be a good idea that never succeeded?

mesh network still cut wifi bandwidth over hops badly, after 2 or 3 hops you barely can do any streaming, though surfing is fine.

taking bus to provide wifi is expensive, an outdoor wifi node solution will be much cheaper, all you need is someone willing to share his wifi to those kids, but that might violate EULA from ISPs(that your wifi can not be shared, even if it's not for profit)

there's one that sits at the end of my street everyday

only problem is they idle the engine all day, that's dumb

While its certainly not ideal, what would you expect them to do? They rigged these things together as cheaply as possible to get them rolling out before the end of the school year. Would you like them to spend hundreds of thousands on batteries and solar or more efficient generators? Oh, and add weeks if not months to the roll out?

I think it's a bit quick to be outraged by the bus idling all day. Give them a little time to find money and iterate.

idling engine consumption is much lower than you'd think, even on a bus. It's part of the push towards more energy efficient transportation.

What happens to poor households where there is a single computer for like 3 kids

It's not just individual households. There are whole school communities predominantly comprised of households like this.

It's been challenging even for the IT departments of technologically advanced companies to adapt to a remote workforce, so schools serving poor communities face daunting obstacles to continuity of education at the moment.

This problem is exacerbated by the existing digital divide.

As an example, I serve on the technology volunteer committee of a public school at which less than 5% of children are technically classified as being in poverty, yet the school had to lend out computers to 20% of the students. The lending program was managed by our volunteer committee so the administration and teachers could focus on ramping up the distance learning program curriculum.

So our school is one of the lucky ones. However, in the same area there are schools where 95% of the students are in poverty, and they have no volunteer committees to help solve these problems, therefore it is left to the already overstretched staff. Some of these schools actually have computers they could lend, but no community knowlege capital to draw upon to organize adapt to the situation.

Where I live, the school district sent equipment home for kids to use if they didn't have anything else. They fully expect to not receive a certain percentage back.

Isn't this a good thing though? I have friends with two middle school children and a $2mil house and they have one laptop to share. It works great and they aren't addicted to screens.

They have to take turns or share or use cheap phones?

Before industrialized schooling, mixed age classrooms were the norm.

Have you considered that maybe the implicit social planning idea here is "these folks really don't need to know about calculus"? All this reminds me of throwing babies and books on top of electrified floors in Brave New World ..

Internet access is a human right that flows from the right to education.

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