Photo Courtesy of Sen. Schumer’s Office
“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,” Sen. Schumer said.
By Forum Staff
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) on Friday called on the Federal Communications Commission 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, Schumer and Gillibrand noted. These students are disproportionately from low-income households, rural areas and communities of color.
According to Schumer and Gillibrand, 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, the senators said.
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.
“Providing more funding through the E-Rate, as opposed to setting up a new program, is the best way to help students continue their education at home,” the senators wrote. “The E-Rate program is, and has been for over 20 years, an important source of funding to connect the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet. As a result, community institutions across the United States already trust and are involved with the program, which should ensure that any distribution of new resources through E-Rate will proceed without bureaucratic delay. Additionally, the E-Rate program is deliberately designed to require an equitable distribution of resources according to students’ needs, making sure that those families most affected by the homework gap will receive the support they require during this emergency.”
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.
“The coronavirus public health crisis has compelled countless students and families to do remote learning and has exposed a yawning digital gap in communities across New York. 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,” Schumer said.
“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,” Gillibrand added. “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.”