12 million students still lack internet access at home. They are disproportionally from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas. The FCC can and must leverage the E-Rate program to get these students the Wi-Fi hotspots they need to get online. pic.twitter.com/vR8lf7b4Vg
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) February 4, 2021
The E-rate program is designed to help schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband. However, under chair Ajit Pai, the previous FCC administration refused to expand it to include student and home access, despite the massive increase in online learning due to school coronavirus closures.
“We urge you to now use your new leadership of the FCC to depart from the prior Commission’s erroneous position,” the letter states. “Although the funds currently available through the E-Rate will not be enough to connect every student across the country, your prompt action would provide an essential down payment.”
Rosenworcel, who butted heads with Pai on the E-Rate issue, said earlier this week that the FCC would seek comment on using E-Rate funds to open up internet access for remote learning. “Kids shouldn’t have to do homework in parking lots because that’s the only place they can get online. We can do better,” she wrote.