FCC, DOE Urge Use of CARE Act Funds for Distance Learning

The FCC said it will team up with the Department of Education to urge states and localities to use $16 billion of the CARES Act's $2 trillion COVID-19 Aid funding for distance learning. The FCC said that, for its part, that will include publicizing ISPs that could "move quickly" to support connectivity and distance learning. 

That $16 billion is part of the Education Stabilization Fund portion of the legislation. Congress clearly had remote education in mind, but the FCC and DOE want to make sure states got that message. 

The FCC did not get any distance learning funding in the CARES Act, though it did get money for a telehealth program. 

“Schools have had to change the way they teach and parents and students are trying to adapt to learning from home," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai. "Fortunately, Congress has provided $16 billion in funding through the CARES Act to help schools equip their students with the broadband connectivity, laptops, and tablets they need to learn at home. It’s a massive amount of funding that can be used for remote learning, and it can be disbursed and put to use immediately. I strongly urge the nation’s governors, state education agencies, and local school districts to take this opportunity to help keep America’s students connected during this pandemic." 

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The states are not required to use the money for remote learning, but the FCC suggests Congress clearly had that in mind.  

The FCC points out that $13 billion in state grants could go to remote learning, including “[p]urchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity).” Then there is $3 billion in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which can be used at the governor's discretion. 

The commission also points to the applications for those funds, which asks governors to explain how they intend “to establish, develop, improve, or expand the availability, accessibility, capacity, and use of remote learning techniques and technologies.”  

"This funding really empowers [states and localities] to do the right thing for students and teachers to ensure they have the tools they need for learning to continue," said Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss. "In many cases, that means access to laptops, tablets and connectivity to the internet." 

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.