Congress should provide support to keep students and teachers connected to online classrooms while they are at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope these funds come soon, and if they do, the existing E-rate funding program is the best option available to facilitate those connections and to keep America’s students learning during this challenging time. The E-rate program’s mission is to connect students and teachers to the Internet. It is a technology neutral program that encourages an equitable distribution of funds and already has the necessary processes and procedures in place to receive funding requests and distribute funds in a timely manner.
Education can take place anywhere and everywhere. COVID-19 has made that point clearer today than perhaps at any other time in history. Even though school and library facilities sit empty, millions of K-12 students are busy at work, meeting in classrooms, talking with their teachers, doing assignments, collaborating on projects, and taking tests. They are online, leveraging the full power of the Internet. It is remarkable. Truly remarkable.
I am grateful that this technology exists, and I am grateful that students are going online and continuing to learn in classrooms connected via the Internet. But there is something deeply unsettling about this situation. This opportunity is available for most students, but not all of them. An estimated 7.15 million family households lack and cannot afford the Internet access that they need to get online.
Given the uncertainty we face with COVID-19, what can be done to make sure these students are connected? They should not have to pause their education when the only thing standing in their way is access to a secure learning device and a good Internet connection.
I hear word that Congress is considering additional support to get K-12 students online from home. This is welcome news. With financial support from Congress and swift action by the FCC, we can keep these students connected. The E-rate program can distribute funds quickly and safeguard them to ensure that every dollar is spent to connect students and teachers. This would not be a new mission for the E-rate. It is the E-rate program’s mission; and our country’s students and teachers need it now more than ever.
To find out more about how the E-rate program can support education in this time of need, please watch this 15-minute video that explains more about our proposal.