Washington (April 21, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) today applauded the introduction by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) of E-rate legislation that would create a special $2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disburse funds to schools and libraries, as well as Tribal schools and libraries, to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-connected devices for students and patrons.
“Children who lack connectivity at home are at risk of falling behind their peers because they cannot complete their coursework and continue their education during this pandemic,” said the Senators. “We plan to file companion legislation to Congresswoman Meng’s bill that would provide $2 billion in E-Rate funding specifically dedicated to expanding home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the 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 percent of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. Without Congressional action, this existing inequity will only be exacerbated by the high 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.
Senator Markey is the author of the original E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Since the program began, more than $52 billion has been committed nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries. As a result, the E-Rate program is, and has been for over two decades, an essential source of funding to connect the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet. As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable families. Additional funding for E-Rate would greatly narrow the homework gap during the current crisis and help ensure that all students can continue to learn.