Legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress to appropriate $40 billion over five years to continue the Emergency Connectivity Fund established by the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.
The ARPA funded the ECF with $7.17 billion to support the provision of connected devices, Internet service, and Wi-Fi hotspots by schools and libraries to students, teachers, and library patrons for home and other remote use. (TR Daily, March 10). The fund is overseen by the FCC, which opened the window for schools and libraries to apply for support for the 2021-2022 school year last month (TR Daily, June 29). The application window closes Aug. 13.
The proposed Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act would amend that ARPA to appropriate an additional $8 billion for the ECF for fiscal years 2022 through 2026 to remain available until expended. It would also authorize the FCC to make any changes to its ECF regulations that are necessary in light of the additional funding.
Leading the 17 initial Senate co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.). Leading the 26 initial House co-sponsors is Rep. Grace Meng (D., N.Y).
Other senators co-sponsoring the bill are Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Alex Padilla (D., Calif.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Jack Reed (D., R.I.), Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), and Christopher Murphy (D., Conn.).
Other House members co-sponsoring the bill are Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D., Del.), Tony Cárdenas (D., Calif.), Judy Chu (D., Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D., N.Y.), Jesús (Chuy) García (D., Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.), Jahana Hayes (D., Conn.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas), Ro Khanna (D., Calif.), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D., N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D., Minn.), Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D., Wis.), Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), Abigail D. Spanberger (D., Va.), Thomas R Suozzi (D., N.Y.), Ritchie Torres (D., N.Y.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D., N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., N.J.), Peter Welch (D., Vt.), and Frederica S. Wilson (D., Fla.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.).
Sen. Markey said, "Even after the coronavirus pandemic finally ends, we cannot ignore a key 21st century educational requirement—internet access. The homework gap is an educational inequity that long predates the current emergency, and we need to put the funding in place to ensure no student is forced to sit in a strip mall parking lot, hoping to connect to a local store’s internet in order to finish their homework."
Rep. Meng said, "Increasing internet access is a vital issue that I have been proud to champion with Senator Markey, and fighting for the $7 billion that was included in the American Rescue Plan was a great victory. But more must be done to build on this critical down payment. As the mother of two young children, I know firsthand how crucial this is. Each and every student must have the tools they need to succeed in school, and the SUCCESS Act is an essential component to permanently closing the homework gap."
Reacting to the introduction of the bill, John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, said, "Even before the coronavirus pandemic, millions of students and library patrons without home broadband were locked out of the 21st century—a problem too complex to solve through temporary programs. SHLB applauds Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng for their continued pursuit of a long-term solution to the digital divide with the introduction of the SUCCESS Act today. This new bill provides important multi-year funding for schools and libraries to extend the reach of broadband to their communities. Senators Markey and Van Hollen, Congresswoman Meng, and their co-sponsors are to be commended for recognizing the critical role of anchor institutions in connecting everyone to the internet." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandAdoption
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