CETF-USC Statewide Broadband Adoption Survey: Closing the Homework Gap in California

May 5, 2021

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Since 2008, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has conducted a statewide
survey to assess California’s progress towards closing the divide in broadband connectivity across
the state. Over the years, the results have shown a steady increase in broadband adoption, though
the gains have been uneven across regions and groups. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
and the transition to remote learning across California, there has been particular attention
to deficits in connectivity and device availability among K-12 families. Prior research has shown
that these deficits are associated with demographic characteristics such as income and race or
ethnicity, as well as place of residency.1 The concern is that barriers to online learning associated
with broadband connectivity and digital literacy may further exacerbate existing educational disparities
along income, racial and geographical lines.
This policy brief examines these questions based on the findings from the 2021 Statewide Survey
on Broadband Adoption. The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern
California (USC) as part of a new research partnership between the California Emerging
Technology fund (CETF) and USC. As most K-12 students faced the reality of learning from
home during the 2020-21 school year, the survey included new questions aimed at capturing how
families with school-age children managed the challenges and opportunities of online learning.
The analysis was led by Dr. Stephen J. Aguilar, Assistant Professor at the USC Rossier School
of Education, with contributions from Dr. Hernan Galperin, Associate Professor at the USC
Annenberg School for Communication and Principal Investigator of the USC-CETF Statewide
Broadband Adoption Survey.

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