At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the socioeconomic gaps that prevented some students from having the necessary technology to complete school assignments became a lot more apparent. Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to help make technology more accessible to those students.
In a press release they shared yesterday (June 29), the FCC announced their $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is a resource that schools can use for money to buy wifi hotspots, laptops, computers, routers, and more. Also available for purchase are broadband connections that can be used to “serve unmet needs for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.”
Jessica Rosenworcel, who operates as the FCC’s Acting Chairwoman, noted the way the pandemic spotlighted the needs of students without the technology needed to complete assignments remotely.
“Even before the coronavirus pandemic upended so much of day-to-day life, seven in ten teachers were assigning homework that required access to the internet. But data from this agency demonstrates that one in three households do not subscribe to broadband. Where those numbers overlap is the Homework Gap,” said Rosenworcel. “Of all the memories and images of the past months, the one that keeps coming back to me is a viral picture of two young girls sitting outside a Taco Bell.”
She continued: “They were sitting cross-legged on the ground with laptops on their knees, using the free Wi-Fi from the restaurant to do their schoolwork. It was heart-wrenching to see. But they were not alone. Kids elsewhere during this pandemic sat in cars outside of libraries to catch a signal to go online for class. Others cobbled together the connectivity they needed by doing everything from borrowing mobile phones to lingering outside of shuttered school and municipal buildings. We should salute the grit of each and every one of these young people who found ways to go online and keep up with school. But it shouldn’t be this hard—and going forward, thanks to the Emergency Connectivity Fund, it won’t.”
Eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for access to the fund so they can buy necessary equipment for the 2021-2022 academic year until Aug. 13.