Photo Courtesy of Rep. Meng
FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel (center l.) and Rep. Meng talk with students at PS 154.
By Forum Staff
Public School 154 in Fresh Meadows on Monday welcomed Federal Communications Commission FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for a roundtable discussion with high school and junior high school students to highlight the success of City schools and libraries recently receiving federal funding to increase internet access for students, particularly the many children who lacked an internet connection at home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who hosted the event, helped create the program that provides this money, known as the Emergency Connectivity Fund, and she helped secure more than $7.1 billion for it. The funding was included in the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 relief package that was passed by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021.
In June 2021, Meng encouraged City schools in Queens to seek funding when the application period opened. And in the fall of 2021, schools and libraries across the nation – including in Queens and throughout New York City – began receiving the money, which has paid for Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, internet service and internet-enabled devices.
“In Congress, I have been proud to champion the vital issue of improving internet access and combatting the homework gap, and I was thrilled to welcome Chairwoman Rosenworcel to my congressional district for an important discussion on this crucial topic,” Meng said. “She and I have worked closely together on this issue, even before she rose to the top spot at the FCC, and this continues to be a top priority for her and her agency. Internet connectivity is part of our daily lives. But millions of kids have lived in homes without any internet connection, and that has created an unacceptable obstacle to education in our country and throughout New York. From remote learning during the coronavirus crisis to completing schoolwork and assignments, access to the internet is essential for today’s students to succeed in their studies. As the mother of two school-aged boys, I am passionate about this issue, and know firsthand how crucial it is. Fortunately, we have seen the Emergency Connectivity Fund begin to address this problem by providing internet access to millions of students, and its success has put us on the road towards closing the digital divide. Our kids are our future. We must make the needed investments to ensure the next generation’s success which in turn ensures the future success of our nation.”
The homework gap refers to students unable to complete their schoolwork due to the lack of access to the internet.
“Too many children across the country, including right here in Queens, are still struggling to keep up with their schoolwork because they lack internet access at home. That’s unacceptable. The Homework Gap is one of the cruelest parts of the digital divide, but we have the power to fix it,” said Rosenworcel. “Thanks to the support of leaders like Congresswoman Grace Meng, the FCC received funding to create the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will now help millions of students nationwide with the broadband connections and devices they need for homework and more. We still have more work to do to make sure every kid across the country has the internet access they need, but I’m more optimistic than ever that working together we can make this a reality.”