U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately fund the E-Rate program to provide improved internet connectivity for students at home. Studies show the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the “homework gap” experienced by an estimated 16 million students, who lack reliable internet access at home. These students are disproportionately from low-income households, rural areas and communities of color.
The FCC has authority and available funding under the E-Rate program to help these students access reliable internet at home — especially at a time when most students continue with online learning due to coronavirus. However, the FCC has so far failed to provide adequate and necessary relief, leaving millions of children at risk of falling behind in their studies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Schumer, Gillibrand, and their colleagues called on the FCC to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on New York’s most vulnerable families and provide internet connectivity and devices for children in need.
“The coronavirus public health crisis had compelled countless students and families to do remote learning and has exposed a yawning digital gap in communities across New York,” said Senator Schumer. “The bottom line is that too many of our students and families are suffering from poor Internet connectivity at just the time when they need it to be fast and reliable. The FCC has the funding available, via the E-Rate Program, to attack this problem and improve connectivity for students and parents and they must do so ASAP.
“The E-Rate program is needed now more than ever, as students are forced to continue their education from home. Yet millions across the country lack reliable internet access and the FCC has failed to provide adequate funding for the program, putting already underserved students even further behind,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must fight to close the pervasive digital gap in our country so that every student – no matter their socioeconomic status or zip code – can receive a quality education. This crisis has exacerbated the need for reliable internet access and I will continue to work with my colleagues to deliver funding to keep New Yorkers connected.”
Schumer and Gillibrand previously cosponsored the Senate’s Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020, which would provide $4 billion in funding to ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity in order to continue their education during the coronavirus pandemic. The senators are calling for the legislation in the next coronavirus relief package.
Full text of the letter can be found here.