Senate Dems Introduce $4 Billion E-Rate Bill

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was joined by almost four dozen other Senate Democrats Tuesday in introducing the Emergency Educational Connections Act.

The bill would insure that all K-12 students have access to "adequate" home broadband connectivity and devices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dems signaled last month they would be introducing the companion bill.

It is the Senate version of a bill introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), but would double Chen's $2 billion allocation for the FCC's E-Rate schools and libraries broadband subsidy program to $4 billion because the pandemic could extend far longer than the current academic year, they said.

"We cannot allow the ‘homework gap’ to become a larger ‘learning gap’ during the coronavirus pandemic.” said Senator Markey. “Without immediate action by Congress, and $4 billion in E-Rate funding, the students of low-income families, immigrants, communities of color and rural areas are at risk of being left behind."

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association Association, welcomed the bill, which would help their members in the already-ongoing effort to get broadband to low-income students in in increasingly study-in-place world.

“As America continues to adapt to changes in our daily lives resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, the cable industry is redoubling its efforts to partner with schools and families in ways that support remote learning while classrooms remain closed," NCTA said. "While the calendar moves us closer to upcoming graduations and the arrival of summer, we know that many challenges remain for schools in the coming months as they work diligently to prepare for the fall and a new school year. For that reason, we appreciate the efforts of Senator Markey and others to consider new tech-neutral ways of assisting schools during the pandemic, as we all work collectively to help teachers and students stay connected and ready to learn regardless of whether instruction occurs at school or at home.” 

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.