The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking public comment on petitions to allow E-Rate funding to be used outside of schools and libraries in order to expand connectivity for students doing distance learning, according to a Feb. 1 public notice.
The E-Rate program currently provides eligible schools and libraries with broadband service discounts. With many schools and libraries still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, petitions have been filed for those entities to be able to provide emergency relief for students still doing remote learning that lack service at home.
“We need to get to work to update E-Rate funding so all our students can be connected to virtual classrooms, no matter who they are or where they live,” acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release. “Kids shouldn’t have to do homework in parking lots because that’s the only place they can get online. We can do better. We can close the homework gap. Today’s action is the first step in a process to hear about the emergency relief communities are seeking and to chart a path forward for the FCC to help solve this crisis.”
The public notice covers three petitions: one led by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband coalition; one on behalf of the State of Colorado; and a third by the State of Nevada, its Board of Education, and its Department of Education.
Replies to the public notice are due Feb. 16, then the FCC will spend a week preparing replies and reply by Feb. 23.