12 million students still do not have access to the Internet at home. They are disproportionately from communities of color, low-income households, tribal lands and rural areas. The FCC can and should take advantage of the E-Rate program to provide these students with the Wi-Fi hotspots they need to connect. pic.twitter.com/vR8lf7b4Vg
– Ed Markey (enSenMarkey) February 4, 2021
The E-rate program is designed to help schools and libraries get affordable broadband. However, the previous FCC administration chaired by Ajit Pai refused to expand it to include student and home access, despite the massive increase in online learning due to the coronavirus closure of schools.
“We urge you to now use your new FCC leadership to steer away from the erroneous position of the previous Commission,” the letter reads. “While the funds currently available through the electronic tariff are not sufficient to connect all students across the country, your swift action would provide an essential down payment.”
Rosenworcel, who buttoned heads with Pai on the E-Rate issue, said earlier this week that the FCC look for a comment on the use of E-Rate funds to open Internet access for distance learning. “Children shouldn’t have to do their homework in parking lots because that’s the only place they can access the internet. We can do better, ”she wrote.