Today, nearly seven in 10 teachers across the United States assign homework and research requiring broadband access, yet an estimated 5 million households with school-age children in the U.S. are faced with limited or nonexistent broadband connectivity. These students are often unable to access the tools they need to complete assignments, prohibiting them from succeeding in school and developing the skills they need to enter today's workforce. These students are at a significant disadvantage due to this "homework gap," which creates an uneven playing field for their future educational and economic prospects. This homework gap is an urgent local and national problem that is growing.
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities and Microsoft partnered with local school districts in rural southern Virginia to create and launch an innovative pilot program - the TV White Space Homework Network - to help close the homework gap in Virginia. The first and largest initiative of its kind in the United States, this pilot program is designed to deliver in-home broadband internet access to thousands of students living in rural southern Virginia at no cost to their families. The pilot program currently runs in two counties - Charlotte and Halifax - where an estimated 50 percent of students currently lack broadband access at home.
The TV White Space Homework Network launched in 2017 and has already connected the first 100 homes; the program continues to grow with plans to connect 1,000 homes in 2018.
Solsken led communications and outreach for the TV White Space Homework Network project. The first initiative of its kind in the United States, Solsken was tasked with favorably positioning this project, developing a compelling narrative, and sharing the impact of this project with the world.
As the first project in a larger, national rollout, Solsken was asked to localize outreach efforts to regional media, sharing the initial success of the southern Virginia pilot project with local media only. This localized coverage would promote the project and the initial success, but enable more expansive, compelling coverage as the project scales.
To tell the story, Solsken:
- Developed compelling talking points and strong key messages
- Crafted the press release
- Worked with local politicians, community leaders and media
- Hosted a ribbon cutting launch event to celebrate connecting the first 100 homes
As a result of Solsken's initial outreach efforts, the launch of the TV White Space Homework Network garnered local coverage and was also highlighted nationally in 17 news outlets including: WSET, The Charlotte Gazette, News & Record, RCR Wireless News, Digital Trends, TelecomPaper and Bloomberg Government.
Shortly following the initial launch, southern Virginia's TV White Space Homework Network garnered additional coverage as the pilot program for Microsoft's larger, national Rural Broadband Initiative. This second wave of coverage garnered placement in 231 outlets including: Associated Press, Axios, Bloomberg, CNET, Fortune, GeekWire, International Business Times, The New York Times, NPR, Politico, Recode, Seattle Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and ZDNet.
Additional coverage is anticipated in 2018 as the next milestone is reached.
The TV White Space Homework Network in southern Virginia is a national pilot program and the first step in delivering a solution to help close the homework gap in the United States. The program's success helped set the stage for Microsoft's larger, national Rural Airband Initiative rollout. Having successfully launched in Virginia, Microsoft will replicate this program across the country, launching an additional 11 Homework Gap projects in 11 additional states in this next year.
TV White Space Homework Network Videos
TVWS Homework Network | Case Study: MBC Homework Gap Project