Spanberger: High-speed Internet critical for rural students

Abigail SpanbergerRep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., is leading an effort calling on the FCC to take steps to expand high-speed internet access for students facing school closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Across the United States, approximately 12 million students lack reliable broadband connectivity in their homes, and as of 2019, 27 percent of rural residents do not have reliable access to high-speed broadband internet. This limits K-12 students’ ability to complete assignments, hinders the efficacy of online-based learning programs, and creates what experts commonly refer to as the “homework gap.”

In response to concerns about a lack of high-speed internet, Spanberger led a letter with 52 of her colleagues to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging the FCC to use its broad emergency powers to temporarily waive relevant E-rate program rules. In making this change, the FCC would allow rural schools in Central Virginia and across the country to provide home wireless service to existing school devices and hotspots for students who lack internet access at home.

“We urge you to temporarily waive relevant E-rate program rules and allow its beneficiaries to utilize universal service funding to provide one-time discounts for home wireless service to existing school devices and hotspots for students who lack internet access at home,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “We urge that the FCC take immediate steps to ensure that all students have adequate home access to the internet should their schools close in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Specifically, the letter also calls on the FCC to consider making as much of the approximately $2 billion in funding for the E-Rate program available for these purposes.


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