The 'homework gap': At least 1/4 of Tennessee students lack home internet, even more in rural districts

Computer tile

Two years ago, Polk County, Tennessee, was able to give all of its middle school students an iPad, complete with 5 gigabytes of data a month, to work on school assignments outside of the classroom.

This one-to-one access to technology is rare in rural counties with limited funding, but despite the excitement around the program there was a hitch.

Some students in rural areas of Polk County didn't have internet access - or even cell service - at home.

Polk County's students are among nearly 3 million students around the nation who make do without home internet. In classrooms, access to laptops and the internet is rampant, but at home, the cost of internet service and gaps in its availability create obstacles in urban areas and rural communities alike.

In what has become known as the homework gap, an estimated 17% of U.S.