Herring, AG coalition, urging the FCC to provide E-Rate funds for remote learning
Attorney General Mark Herring is part of a bipartisan coalition of 30 attorneys general urging the FCC to fund internet connectivity and internet-enabled devices to K-12 students learning online at home or other locations.
“Internet and broadband access has become crucial to Virginians’ daily lives during the COVID pandemic as they have been forced to move school, work, healthcare, and almost everything else online,” Herring said. “Our children have been learning remotely for almost a full year now, and we should be making it as easy as possible for them and their parents to have access to affordable internet services and devices.”
This month, the FCC asked for comment on petitions urging the commission to temporarily waive some restrictions on its E-Rate program to allow schools to extend their broadband internet networks to students’ homes and to allow E-Rate funds to support Wi-Fi hotspots or other broadband connections for students who lack adequate internet connectivity to participate in remote schooling.
In their comment letter to the FCC, Herring and his colleagues urge the commission to promptly take action to unlock the doors of the virtual classroom while physical schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The E-Rate program provides funding to better connect schools and libraries in all parts of the nation—urban, suburban and rural. Now, all parts of the nation are struggling with the best means to educating K-12 students during the waves of a pandemic.
At least 55 million K-12 students in the U.S. have, at one time or another, been forced to rely on online learning when their classrooms were closed. When schools are closed, the living room, bedroom, or basement becomes the classroom and deserves the same E-Rate support.
School districts stand ready to use E-Rate funded services to rapidly connect their students to high-speed internet. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 E-Rate program participants, 93 percent reported that they would use E-Rate funds to connect students at home for virtual schooling, if allowed by the FCC.
Herring and his colleagues also state in their letter that, given the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC is authorized to amend or waive E-Rate program rules as necessary to provide broadband connectivity for remote schooling.