(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Rep. Abigail Spanberger (PA-07) and more than 40 colleagues in urging House leadership to dedicate an additional $2 billion for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) E-Rate program in upcoming coronavirus emergency packages. With this investment, rural schools and libraries could extend high-speed internet access to students facing connectivity issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, only 53 percent of U.S. students in small towns or rural areas have access to high-speed internet—compared to 77 percent of suburban students. Following school closures in Central Virginia and across the country due to COVID-19, rural students are having difficulties accessing video streams, video conferences, and online-based learning programs due to a lack of reliable high-speed broadband internet.
The Members wrote: “The success of our students and the opportunities afforded to them should not be based on where they live. It is especially important that during a time of public health crisis, we take steps to ensure that all students can learn from home and that parents do not feel pressured to expose their children to contagions so that they can access public Wi-Fi to complete their schoolwork. While permanently addressing this digital divide caused by a lack of broadband access will take time and broad investments in infrastructure, Congress can help students impacted by the coronavirus public health crisis today by providing funds specifically dedicated to ensuring they have adequate home internet access.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Spanberger has worked to bring immediate solutions to students, parents, and schools struggling to access high-speed internet during this public health crisis. Last month, Spanberger led 52 of her colleagues in 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.
A copy of the letter is available here.