As President Biden pushes for a majority of elementary schools to be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, the Federal Communications Commission is engaged in an important effort to ensure students learning remotely are still connected to their classrooms.
The big shift: The FCC is updating the E-Rate program, which supports broadband access for schools and libraries, to allow funds to be used for at-home learning—and the NAM has advocated for this change.
Why it matters: While President Biden is aiming to send more kids back to school soon, it’s clear that they need more assistance while they are still at home. In addition, high school students may stay home for longer than elementary school kids (due to higher risks of contagion among older students) and thus require longer-term support.
Our view: “Ensuring the FCC’s current programs for schools and libraries are adapting to meet these new remote needs is of critical importance, and the cost of not responding to the changing environment is high,” said NAM Director of Innovation Policy Stephanie Hall in a comment letter to the FCC. “The FCC should coordinate with the Department of Education on necessary revisions to the E-Rate program or to build consensus on new alternatives that can close the digital divide.”
In related news, the FCC held a roundtable last Friday to discuss how to quickly implement the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—another important initiative for manufacturing communities. Established late last year, the initiative allocates $3.2 billion for discounts on internet service for people who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- What it includes: The program offers up to $50 per month for eligible consumers and up to $75 per month for eligible consumers on Tribal Lands. Some eligible participants can also receive discounts on personal computers or laptops.
The last word: As Hall says, “Manufacturers recognize that enhanced broadband investment and the growth of next generation wireless networks are critical both for the current challenges in COVID-19 and to support continued U.S. technological leadership.”