The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday unanimously implemented the legislation that will provide $7 billion for the E-Rate (Education Rate) program that was included in the March passage of the American Rescue Plan.

The legislation will help close the “homework gap” by funding elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers and internet-enabled devices, including internet service through such equipment, to students, staff and patrons.

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, studies indicate that as many as 12 million children still lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning or complete their homework after class. Those students are disproportionately from communities of color, low-income households, tribal lands and rural areas.

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“Closing the digital divide is urgent to ensure equal opportunity for our children,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “That’s why we fought for funds within the American Rescue Plan to establish this emergency program to help get students and educators online. I’m glad to see the FCC’s quick work to implement this vital program, and I urge Marylanders and folks across the country to take advantage of this crucial financial support. I will continue working to bring reliable, affordable internet access to every household in our state and our nation.”

Other U.S. senators giving praise to the bipartisan FCC for their implementation of the legislation were Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY-06).

“With today’s action by the FCC, schools and libraries can now deploy the more than $7 billion in E-Rate funding that was included in the American Rescue Plan for K-12 distance learning,” Markey said. “Even as we continue to safely reopen schools in the months ahead, distance learning is not going away since many schools are using hybrid models, relying on part-time at-home learning, as well as the fact that students across the country are suffering from severe learning loss and may need to continue their home education through the summer months and during evenings.”

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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