Senators urge FCC to shore up internet access for students
A group of 16 Democratic Senators sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday urging it to free up funds for schools to provide internet for students as more classes have to shift online because of coronavirus.
The lawmakers are asking for the FCC to determine how much of the E-Rate program, which has a $4 billion yearly cap, can be used for one-time discounts to schools attempting to loan out Wi-Fi hotspots or enable internet access on other devices.
“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,” the lawmakers, led by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“We believe that the FCC can use its emergency powers to temporarily waive relevant E-rate program rules and allow its beneficiaries to utilize universal service funding to provide home wireless service to existing school devices and hotspots for students who lack internet access at home. This swift, immediate action would help ensure that all students can remotely continue their education during the current public health emergency.”
The letter comes as schools across the country are shuttering in an attempt to quell the spread of the coronavirus.
That has moved many classes online, highlighting the millions of students in American who do not have internet access at home.