Washington (May 26, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it received $2.8 billion in requests for funds from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in the third application window. The ECF – which the lawmakers created as part of the American Rescue Plan – has helped more than 12.5 million students connect to the Internet but only has an estimated $1.5 billion remaining in the program and therefore likely lacks funds to meet the demand.
“By connecting more than 12.5 million students to the Internet, the Emergency Connectivity Fund has provided crucial support for students and educators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the lawmakers. “But the ‘Homework Gap’ was an emergency long before the pandemic began and will remain an emergency after it is over. The Federal Communications Commission’s announcement that demand for ECF funds exceeds the remaining supply demonstrates the need to pass our SUCCESS Act and replenish the Emergency Connectivity Fund. We cannot abandon the Emergency Connectivity Fund’s impressive gains and allow millions of students to lose access to high-speed broadband.”
The FCC has distributed over $4.8 billion through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, including $68 million in Massachusetts, $69 million in Maryland, and $505 million in New York. Last year, Senator Markey, Senator Van Hollen, and Congresswoman Meng introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund created under the American Rescue Plan and provide schools and libraries with $8 billion a year over five years – for a total of $40 billion – to continue to connect students to the internet following the coronavirus pandemic. The bills currently have 17 Senate and 43 House co-sponsors, respectively.
Since the E-Rate program began more than two decades ago, more than $54 billion, including more than $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.