House Democrat introduces bill to ensure students have internet access amid pandemic

Greg Nash

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at ensuring that students have access to the internet amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 would create a special $2 billion fund for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disburse for schools and libraries to buy Wi-Fi hotspots, routers and internet connected devices.

“COVID-19 has forced over 55 million students to stay home during this national health crisis and adjust to a new future that requires internet access and a computer to continue their studies,” Meng, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

“Today, with schools across the country having moved learning entirely online, including class meetings, explanations of new content, virtual field trips, homework, and learning exercises, this gap seems more like a chasm. Students without internet service will fall further behind as students with internet service at home can continue advancing in their studies. Whether they live in urban centers, suburbs, or exurbs, or small communities in rural America, all students require internet connectivity to succeed during this pandemic.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted Tuesday that he would be introducing companion legislation in the Senate. The Hill has reached out to the Massachusetts lawmaker’s office for more information on his planned bill.

Markey was part of an effort, along with 15 other Democratic senators, last month to press the FCC to allocate more funds toward the E-Rate program for schools attempting to loan out Wi-Fi hotspots or enable internet access on other devices.

Meng’s legislation comes as schools across the country are shuttering in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

That has moved many classes online, highlighting the millions of students in American who do not have internet access at home.

The so-called digital divide affects students every week but has gained added importance and attention with the school closures.

Tags Coronavirus Ed Markey Grace Meng

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