The day her teenage daughter’s hair began to fall out, Eva Garcia knew the stress had become too much.

For months, Kimberly Son Garcia had been getting bumped off Zoom classes and missing deadlines because of slow internet access. Until November, the Los Angeles family had grabbed Wi-Fi from the parking lot of Carl’s Jr., a local fast-food chain, or through a school-provided hotspot. After shopping for her own internet service and rejecting bundles she couldn’t afford, Garcia finally signed up for a $30-per-month plan from Spectrum.

“I told them ‘I just need basic service — this is for my children.’” Garcia said in Spanish through an interpreter. “Sometimes I can’t afford to pay one month, and sometimes my bills accumulate. It’s really hard because the internet is such an essential piece.”

A year after the coronavirus shut down the nation’s schools, Garcia’s children, Cristofer and Kimberly, are among the “under-connected” — the estimated 12 million students who, according to a recent analysis, lack internet service or make do with a patchwork of short-term fixes to participate in remote learning. Their issues are regionally specific, from a lack of broadband in the isolated reaches of Appalachia to worn-out and obsolete devices distributed to poor families on Chicago’s South Side. But the heartache and exhaustion are universal.

The federal government is addressing the divide with $7 billion schools can use for internet hotspots and devices, part of the pandemic relief bill President Joe Biden signed last week. The issues, however, aren’t just technological. As schools continue to reopen this spring, they will confront the pandemic’s legacy of lost learning, one that has disproportionately affected students of color and those from low-income families.

“It’s frustrating watching the state and federal government work so slowly,” said Devon Conley, school board president in the Mountain View Whisman School District in California. “In the grand scheme of things, internet access shouldn’t be just for students. I think it’s a human right.”

Read the full article about internet access by Linda Jacobson at The 74.