Washington (November 14, 2022) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) issued the following statement calling on Congress to provide $1 billion in the year-end omnibus for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which funds devices and broadband services for students and educators to connect to the internet at home. The federal dollars are necessary to fully fund the $2.8 billion in ECF requests that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received in its most recent application window. The lawmakers worked to secure the provisions creating the Emergency Connectivity Fund within the American Rescue Plan to provide immediate internet access to the millions of American students who lack the ability to get online at home.
“The Emergency Connectivity Fund has been a critical lifeline for students and educators across the country, ensuring students have the tools they need to get online at home. The funding for this program is running dry, and without additional federal dollars, the program cannot meet the demands of students, teachers, and school districts who know first-hand how important these learning tools are to a 21st century education,” said the lawmakers. “Pulling the plug on the ECF would be a disaster for our kids at a time when they’re working so hard to keep pace. Jeopardizing internet access for millions of students also means wasting the smart investments we’ve made in at-home connectivity. We are calling on our colleagues to step up for our students and provide an additional $1 billion for the ECF to ensure that the 15 million young learners who have benefited from the program are not disconnected from their teachers and classmates.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in May that it received more than $2.8 billion in requests for ECF funds in its most recent application window – far more than the estimated $1.5 billion in remaining funds. The $1 billion request from Senator Markey, Senator Van Hollen, and Congresswoman Meng would be sufficient for the FCC to fund all valid applications it received in that application window. To date, the FCC has distributed nearly $6.3 billion through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, including $80 million in Massachusetts, $95 million in Maryland, and $777 million in New York.
In June, Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng led 76 of their colleagues in a letter urging congressional leadership to support their efforts to secure additional funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund. Last year, Senator Markey, Senator Van Hollen, and Congresswoman Meng introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to provide an additional $8 billion a year over five years – for a total of $40 billion – to the ECF program to continue to connect students to the internet following the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the E-Rate program began more than two decades ago, the program has invested more than $60 billion nationwide, including more than $841 million in Massachusetts, to provide internet access for schools and libraries. Senator Markey is the author of the original E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to connect schools and libraries to the internet. The ECF is a natural extension of the E-Rate program to provide students and educators with access to reliable internet at home.