FCC to explore using subsidy fund to connect students at home
The Federal Communications Commission on Monday took a first step toward allowing schools to use a federal funding program to help students connect to the internet at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why it matters: Schoolwork has gone remote because of the pandemic, but the FCC funding that schools receive for internet connections doesn't extend beyond the physical classrooms.
Details: The commission on Monday said it would seek comment on several requests to use the $4 billion E-rate program to support remote learning during the pandemic.
- Acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who began leading the agency in January, has called for the FCC to update the program in light of the pandemic.
- The Biden administration issued an executive order encouraging the FCC to "increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband" as part of its COVID-19 response plan.
- The Colorado attorney general and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition are among the players that have pressed the agency to change the program during the pandemic.
What they're saying: "Kids shouldn’t have to do homework in parking lots because that’s the only place they can get online," Rosenworcel said in a statement.
- "We can do better. We can close the homework gap. Today’s action is the first step in a process to hear about the emergency relief communities are seeking and to chart a path forward for the FCC to help solve this crisis.”
Between the lines: During the Trump administration, the Republican-run commission said the law requires the funding be used in classrooms and couldn't be expanded to students' homes.
- The FCC is currently deadlocked at 2-2, but Rosenworcel could have some leeway to make program changes without a full commission vote.