The latest COVID-19 aid package, part of a budget reconciliation package, has an additional $7 billion-plus for broadband connectivity, targeted for E-rate student connectivity during the pandemic.
That is in addition to the $3.2 billion in emergency broadband funding, including for remote learners, in the most recent COVID-19 aid bill passed last December.
The new money goes to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, devices and service to schools and libraries and their students--including those studying from home--staff and patrons.
That $7.2 billion was introduced as the Emergency Educational Connections Act back in May by some top Senate Democrats and House members Those legislators--Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)-- were understandably pleased.
“We are excited to see our legislation that funds K-12 distance learning included in the latest coronavirus relief package unveiled by the House of Representatives,” they said in a joint statement. “The reconciliation package reflects what we all know: that we cannot afford to wait another day to connect online our nation’s most vulnerable children to their teachers and classmates and to ensure the ‘homework gap’ does not continue to grow into a damaging learning and opportunity gap as the pandemic continues. We call on our colleagues in both the Senate and House to include this funding in the final package and quickly send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.”
“This funding is critical as millions of families continue to rely on an internet connection as children learn from home," said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports. "Closing the digital divide and homework gap is more important than ever as low-income families struggle to keep up with a lack of digital resources. Children should not have to sit in a parking lot to complete their homework because they lack access to the internet at home.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.