Funds stem from the more than $7 billion the lawmakers secured in the American Rescue Plan to connect students to the internet
Boston (August 25, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) released the following statement today after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the initial demand numbers from the first round of applications for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a program the lawmakers fought to pass in the American Rescue Plan. This fund provides $7.17 billion to allow elementary and secondary schools and libraries – including tribal schools and libraries – to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices, including internet service through such equipment, to students, staff, and patrons. The initial demand for the program from schools and libraries was $5.1 billion, including $61 million from Massachusetts.
“Today’s announcement by the FCC underscores how our Emergency Connectivity Fund is addressing an urgent need across the country: closing the homework gap. With $5.1 billion already being requested by schools and libraries through this program, vital resources will soon be deployed to provide the connectivity and devices students need to succeed in their 21st century education. But this substantial demand also highlights the absolute necessity of passing our SUCCESS Act and providing additional funding in Congress’s upcoming reconciliation package to continue our efforts,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “We cannot allow students connected by the Emergency Connectivity Fund to lose their new access when the program’s original funds run dry, and we must continue to close the homework gap even after the pandemic ends. We applaud Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the FCC for their administration of this critical program, and we urge our colleagues in Congress to build on this progress moving forward. We must ensure that the homework gap does not become an even larger learning and opportunity gap for our most vulnerable children.”
Since the E-Rate program began more than two decades ago, more than $54 billion, including approximately $770 million in Massachusetts, has been invested nationwide 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 new Emergency Connectivity Fund is a natural extension of the E-Rate program to connect students learning at home.