Students need $5 billion for broadband internet, advocates say

“Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act” would provide connections and computers for continued online learning

A coalition of education and community organizations is urging Congress to provide $5.25 billion in emergency funding to provide broadband internet access to all of the nation’s students.

An estimated 7.15 million families lack connections sufficient for the online learning that will likely continue into the upcoming school year, according to the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance and Funds For Learning.

The groups have drafted the “Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act” to enable the Federal Communications Commission to leverage the E-rate program to launch a new remote learning initiative that would connect homes and provide students with laptops and tablets.

The funding would also cover cybersecurity so schools and libraries could harden their networks against an increasing number of cyberattacks, which the groups said.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has upended education as we know it, and has created a ‘new normal’ that won’t end anytime soon,” the groups said in a statement. “Yet millions of students without home broadband access are unable to participate effectively in remote online learning. We must not let these children become trapped in a learning gap.”

The proposal would also:

  • Allow schools and libraries to extend their networks to serve the surrounding community without jeopardizing their universal service funding.
  • Directs the FCC to set funding caps for each school district and library.
  • Cover expenditures back to the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
  • Streamline and expedite the application process so that schools and libraries can provide online instruction in the fall.
  • Allow all broadband providers to participate (provider-neutral).

More than $4 billion of the funding would be spent on connectivity, with about $1.8 billion going toward devices and $1.5 billion for cybersecurity, according to a needs analysis by Funds for Learning.

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DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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