Fifteen Democratic senators and one Independent senator, led by Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), have asked the FCC to waive E-rate rules so that schools that have closed during the COVID-19 outbreak can use program funding to provide wireless service to school devices and hotspots for students who lack Internet access at home.
“This swift, immediate action would help ensure that all students can remotely continue their education during the current public health emergency,” the senators said in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated today.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the ‘homework gap’ experienced by 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework—at a time when more than 70% of educators assign schoolwork that requires the internet. Without FCC action, this existing inequity is likely to be exacerbated by the increasing number of schools that are suspending in-person classes and have transitioned to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff. Temporarily changing E-rate rules to allow financial support for home internet access would be of immense help to schools, students, and families at this time,” the lawmakers said.
“The E-rate program is capped at $4 billion each year. We understand that the FCC has already allocated about $2 billion this year, leaving approximately half of the funding available for potential emergency action. We strongly urge you to consider how much of this funding can be spent on one-time discounts for schools seeking to loan Wi-Fi hotspots to students who do not have internet at home, as well as those trying to equip school-distributed devices with Wi-Fi capability that can be lent out while physical classes are on hold. We also request that you make it clear to state and local institutions that undertaking any similar measures during this crisis will not affect their future E-rate eligibility,” they added.
Also signing the letter were Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Jack Reed (D., R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Angus King Jr. (Ind., Maine), and Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.). —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
MainStory: FederalNews Congress FCC UniversalServiceLifeline
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