Senators Shaheen, Hassan & Colleagues Urge FCC to Help Connect Students to Online Learning As New School Year Gets Underway

September 22, 2020

Senators’ Letter Builds on Legislation, Introduced by Senator Hassan, to Direct $4 Billion in E-Rate Funds to Ensure K-12 Students Have Home Internet Connectivity For Remote Learning

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter with their colleagues calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately utilize the E-Rate program to provide internet connectivity to students who are learning remotely as the new school year gets underway. The letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai follows up on legislation that the Senators support that would provide $4 billion to the E-Rate Fund at the FCC to ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The E-Rate Program is, and has been for more than two decades, an essential source of funding to connect the nation’s K-12 schools and libraries to the internet. The FCC has clear authority and available funding under the E-Rate program to provide internet connection for students who are learning from home. However, the FCC has narrowly construed its ability to act during the current emergency, needlessly leaving millions of children at risk of falling behind in their studies.

“As a new school year begins, students across the country are increasingly returning to virtual classrooms due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the Senators wrote. “Yet, studies indicate that as many as 16 million children in the United States lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning. These students are disproportionally from communities of color, low-income households, and rural areas.”

The Senators continue, “The FCC has the power to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on our most vulnerable families. We now urge you in the strongest possible terms to utilize this authority to provide internet connectivity and devices for children in need. School bells across the country have started to ring, but without immediate action, many students are at risk of never making it to class.”

Senators Shaheen and Hassan are working to support students and teachers during this challenging time and joined in announcing $82 million to support New Hampshire schools, colleges, and universities as part of the bipartisan CARES Act. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan held a virtual roundtable with New Hampshire teachers on the challenges that they are facing for the new school year, including how inadequate broadband access will impact students’ ability to learn remotely. Senator Hassan also discussed these challenges with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during a roundtable discussion on the importance of expanding broadband in New Hampshire. Additionally, Senators Hassan and Shaheen are calling for additional funding for schools in a future COVID-19 relief package.

Senator Shaheen has worked to stay connected with Granite State educators and students during COVID-19 and support their efforts to provide and receive the best education possible. Senator Shaheen joined teachers and students in their virtual classrooms throughout the Spring. In March, Senators Shaheen and Hassan called on the FCC to help provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.