Democratic lawmakers push leadership to ensure college students have internet access

Democratic lawmakers push leadership to ensure college students have internet access
© Greg Nash

Democrats in both chambers on Wednesday sent a letter to congressional leadership urging them to include funding to ensure college students can access the internet during the coronavirus pandemic in future relief packages.

Led by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.) and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Democratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying MORE (D-Calif.), the letter highlights the struggle of students to continue their education while at home without proper internet access.

“Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets,” the 18 lawmakers wrote.

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“Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic. Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet," they continued.

Klobuchar and Eshoo introduced legislation last month to create a dedicated $1 billion fund at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for internet connections as well as equipment like hot spots and Wi-Fi enabled devices.

The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act would specifically target historically black, tribal, Hispanic and other minority-serving colleges and universities as well as rural institutions.

Wednesday's letter comes as schools across the country remain shuttered in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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

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

While some funding for colleges and universities was included in the first coronavirus relief package, the CARES Act, according to the letter it was insufficient to for ensuring internet access.