Common Sense Joins Leaders in Tech, Education, and Media in Calling on Congress to Close the Digital Divide

Also this week: Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduces bill to close the homework gap; Senate hearing on broadband.
Common Sense Media
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The following was released by James P. Steyer, CEO and founder, Common Sense: 

"A digital divide in the richest country on earth is inexcusable, but there is hope. As a result of COVID-19, the country is finally waking up and working toward closing the divide for good. We saw Sen. Markey with 45 of his colleagues introduce new legislation today to close the homework gap. Congress is making it a priority to include funding for broadband access and devices for students in the next COVID stimulus package. And we are seeing leaders in technology, education, and media commit to doing their part to connect students and families. With 12 million students unable to access the internet today at home, the time to act is now. We've seen pockets of hope in communities around the country and know this can be fixed. Now it is time for Congress and the Trump Administration to once and for all get it done."

Please see the following links for more details:

Statement from tech, education, and media industry leaders

Today, Common Sense joined leaders in technology, education, and media asking Congress to close the digital divide. The partners are: the American Federation of Teachers, Amplify, the Boys and Girls Club of America, Common Sense, Everyone On, Go Noodle, Khan Academy, Land O' Lakes, Lego, Mozilla, the National Head Start Association, Newsela, Noggin, Playworks, Remind, Salesforce, Scholastic, Sesame, and Southern Education Foundation.

U.S. Senate hearing, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The State of Broadband Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

10:00 a.m.

This hearing will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 - Background

Introduced by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Original Co-Sponsors at Introduction (46): Markey, Van Hollen, Bennet, Schatz, Hassan, Schumer, Cantwell, Murray, Feinstein, Booker, Jones, Blumenthal, Gillibsrand, King, Baldwin, Brown, Durbin, Harris, Murphy, Wyden, Cardin, Shaheen, Sanders, Reed, Klobuchar, Cortez Masto, Rosen, Hirono, Smith, Merkley, Duckworth, Warren, Whitehouse, Udall, Peters, Kaine, Menendez, Casey, Carper, Sinema, Coons, Heinrich, Warner, Stabenow, Tester, and Leahy.

  • This bill would appropriate $4 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund, administered through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program, for schools and libraries to support distance and remote learning for millions of students without home internet access exacerbated by the COVID-19 emergency. 

How long will this last?  For the duration of a “Public Health Emergency Declaration.”
How much funding?  $4 billion for fiscal year 2020 and available through fiscal year 2021.
How will this be administered?  Through the FCC’s E-rate program, the appropriated funds can only be used for the purposes of the Emergency Connectivity Fund and not for other aspects of the E-rate program or the Universal Service Fund program.  Within 7 days of enactment, FCC will promulgate regulations providing for the benefit, regarding  amounts made available from the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
What is offered?  Equipment includes:  connected devices (laptops, tablets and other computing devices), connectivity equipment (hot spots, routers, modems etc).
Who can offer?  Schools (public, private, tribal) and libraries (public and tribal).
Is there an eligibility factor for recipients?  No, schools and libraries determine need at their own discretion.  However, the legislation requires that this benefit flows to patrons of the library, school teachers and students who the school or library believes do not have access to service and/or equipment at their residence.
Are there restrictions on the equipment?  Schools and libraries may not sell the equipment but can exchange for upgraded equipment. Schools and libraries will retain the equipment after the close of the public health emergency.

About Common Sense

Common Sense is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.

 

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