Education & Broadband: The Response to COVID-19
Published: May 06, 2020
How is the Federal Government responding to nationwide issues regarding broadband access.
The government is discussing various methods of providing monetary support to state and local governments as the nation weathers the COVID-19 pandemic. One major concern is the impending decisions of schools across the country on whether they continue remote learning for the remainder of the school year but a more pressing concern is what the fall will look like.
Several government representatives are lobbying for support for education related funding activities and waivers. Many are focused on broadband through the e-rate program and new legislation is calling for as much as $2 billion in emergency funding for students with no internet access. This would be through the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020. Some leaders as citing as much as $4 billion in funding is needed for such program support like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The funding can go to schools and libraries for Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and additional devices to continue online learning.
According to E-Rate Central and based on their preliminary findings: Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) "received 35,930 in-window applications, up 6.5% from 2019. As of last Friday, half of those applications have already been reviewed and are 'Wave Ready.'" With these numbers in mind as well as the FCC's approval (attached PDF) funding is anticipated to begin funneling out by the end of the month.
See the formula below provided by E-Rate Central:
The analysis here is that basic internet access is absolutely necessary to continue learning in a remote environment. With the field of education so reliant on collaboration of teacher to student relationships, as well as fostering collaboration between fellow students, it will come at a price. However there is something to be said about e-rate funding and using what is already there. Giving a student a router does not give them an education. Schools need digital learning plans laid out first before entering the unknown world of distance learning at the K-12 level and elsewhere. The concern of accessibility can be thrown at every avenue in which education crosses but without plan to use resources they will only go to waste, thus digging a deeper hole for education.