E-rate/Schools and Libraries Program
Ensuring all US households have high-speed internet will help provide similar education opportunities to students at different income levels, particularly during the pandemic, Democrats said. “Education justice involves giving everybody the same access to information,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is widely considered among the frontrunners to lead the FCC under a Biden administration. Protocol spoke with Commissioner Rosenworcel about whether the process around President Donald Trump's social media executive order has become corrupt, why she thinks FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is dropping the ball when it comes to helping students get internet access, and what she thinks a Democratic administration should prioritize on tech policy.
Ensuring all US households have high-speed internet will help provide similar education opportunities to students at different income levels, particularly during the pandemic, Democratic policymakers said. “Education justice involves giving everybody the same access to information,” said Rep Donna Shalala (D-FL). Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “We need a national policy of 100 percent of our households online,” she said.
Getting the internet to everyone is not just about tech: It’s even more a policy question, one tied up in politics.
There are almost three times as many Americans without a broadband subscription in blue urban areas than in red state rural areas. The Trump Federal Communications Commission, by focusing its attention on rural areas with a lack of access (i.e., those unable to get broadband) is dealing with only part of the digital divide. The larger part of the digital divide is adoption; those Americans who may have broadband available, but don’t or can’t use it. Here are three solutions the Trump FCC could pursue if they really were dedicated to making the digital divide their “number one priority.”
As COVID-19 has shifted life online, residents of towns like Monterey (MA) — they lack internet at home — have had to drive to public Wi-Fi hot spots to stay connected. Disparities in internet access took center stage during the Aug. 18 Massachusetts US Senate debate between incumbent Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and his challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA).
Schools are being forced to tackle the digital divide problem in their districts, becoming experts in complex broadband options seemingly overnight. That's on top of grappling with how to make sure their low-income students are fed and healthy, and navigating archaic regulations controlling how they receive funding.
The Federal Communications Commission has promoted several emergency measures to boost broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic, which has required millions of people to rely on inadequate at-home internet connections for work and school. But without an immediate expansion of the agency’s E-Rate program — a K-12 school-based broadband subsidy created in 1996 — students around the country will continually be locked out of their virtual classrooms, said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
17 Million Students Lack Home Internet. With No Relief From Congress in Sight, Schools Deploy an Awkward Mix of Buses, Mobile Hotspots to Get Them Online
Rolling Wi-Fi-enabled school buses into neighborhoods and distributing personal hotspots to families were part of Washington's Central Kitsap School District's rapid response to getting families online once schools closed in the spring. But such programs have limitations and don’t always provide students the high-speed connections they need for Zoom classes and completing assignments — especially if there are multiple students in the home. While the problem permeates much of rural America, the lack of broadband can even be an issue for students living in tech hubs.
In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) to BellSouth Telecommunications (d/b/a AT&T Southeast) for apparently failing to charge two Florida school districts the lowest corresponding price for telecommunications services it provided under the E-Rate program.