Attorney General Phil Weiser leads 30 attorneys general in urging the FCC to provide E-Rate funds for remote learning during the pandemic
Feb. 23, 2021 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser today led 30 attorneys general in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fund internet connectivity and internet-enabled devices to K-12 students whose schools are closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and who are learning online at home or other locations.
In September 2020, Colorado petitioned the FCC to temporarily waive some restrictions on its E-Rate program to allow schools to extend their broadband internet networks to students’ homes and to allow E-Rate funds to support Wi-Fi hotspots or other broadband connections for students who lack adequate Internet connectivity to participate in remote schooling. This month, the FCC asked for comment on Colorado’s petition and similar petitions.
In their comment letter to the FCC, the attorneys general urge the commission to promptly take action to unlock the doors of the virtual classroom while physical schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many students in Colorado were required to attend their schools remotely after safety concerns arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, not all students or teachers have access to adequate, affordable internet at home,” Weiser said. “Through the E-Rate program, the FCC can help meet that critical need for broadband access and ensure educational equity.”
The E-Rate program provides funding to better connect schools and libraries in all parts of the nation—urban, suburban and rural. Now, all parts of the nation are struggling with the best means to educating K-12 students during the waves of a pandemic.
Most of the more than 850,000 pre-K-12 students in Colorado have, at one time or another, been forced to rely on online learning when their classrooms were closed. When schools are closed, the living room, bedroom, or basement becomes the functional equivalent of a classroom and deserves the same, albeit temporary, E-Rate support.
School districts stand ready to use E-Rate funded services to rapidly connect their students to high-speed internet. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 E-Rate program participants, 93% reported that they would use E-Rate funds to connect students at home for virtual schooling, if allowed by the FCC.
The attorneys general also state in their letter that, given the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC is authorized to amend or waive E-Rate program rules as necessary to support a range of technological mechanisms to provide broadband connectivity for remote schooling.
Attorney General Weiser and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson are leading this effort, and are joined by the attorney generals from Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
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