Democratic Senators Push FCC for Ed Tech Funding

U.S. Capitol
(Image credit: Capitol)

The same legislators who are pushing for $4 billion in funding for ed tech in the next COVID-19 stimulus are asking the FCC not to wait around for the Hill to act--so far negotiations have stalled on a successor to the CARES Act.

Related: Dems Push $4 Billion for Distance Learning

In a letter to the FCC, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), were joined by two dozen others asking the FCC to immediately use E-rate broadband subsides for home connectivity.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said his hands are tied by statute that says the money can only go to schools and libraries, not students at home.

Democrats said homes are virtual classrooms and thus should qualify for the money. The letter is led by Markey, one of the original authors of legislation that created the E-rate schools and libraries subsidy.

“The FCC has the power to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on our most vulnerable families,” they wrote in a letter to Pai. “We now urge you in the strongest possible terms to utilize this authority to provide internet connectivity and devices for children in need. School bells across the country have started to ring, but without immediate action, many students are at risk of never making it to class.”

Pai back in June pointed out that while the FCC's hands were tied when it comes to applying E-rate schools and libraries funding to remote learning during the pandemic, there are billions of dollars that could already be applied to that purpose that Congress has already allocated and the FCC is working on getting educators to spend on education tech. 

He pointed out on a webinar in June that the CARES Act COVID-19 aid bill allocated $16 billion for schools and that the FCC was working with the Department of Education to let schools know that one of the things that money could be used for is educational tech. 

John Eggerton

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.