The FCC Aims to Close the Homework Gap With New Program

The Emergency Connectivity Fund will grant over $7 billion in funding

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking a much-needed step towards healing the digital divide that has plagued American schools and education systems for the past year.

The Emergency Connectivity Fund will provide $7.17 billion in funding to help students and school staff get access to internet hotspots and smart devices they need to complete their work at home. According to The Verge, the fund is already in use by the E-Rate program, which assists schools and libraries in paying for internet access.

A kid attends online classes from home

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The program aims to get qualifying libraries and schools the money that they need to purchase routers, tablets, computers, hotspots, and other smart tech needed to help bolster remote learning capabilities for students and patrons of all ages. The funding is only meant for necessary devices, which means smartphones aren’t included in the list of available items.

"Schools and libraries are key access points to education and career resources," Rebecca Watts, regional vice president of the northeast region of Western Governors University, told us in an email. "Learners of all ages and especially underemployed adults need access to devices and connectivity to broadband, to progress in their learning, apply for jobs, and pursue online professional education and degree programs to advance their careers."

The homework gap has been a part of the digital divide for years, but has become more apparent in the past year, as many students like fourth-grader Jonathon Endecott were forced to walk to school just to access the internet via Wi-Fi so that they could complete their assignments. With this new program in place, students like Endecott will be able to get access to equipment that allows them to complete their work without having to worry about walking to places with internet access.

It also will help library patrons who relied on the internet access provided by those institutions for college work, filling out job applications, and other online access that may not be available to them anymore.

"Schools and libraries are key access points to education and career resources."

This is just the latest program the FCC has approved in a desperate attempt to close the digital divide and give Americans access to better internet. Earlier this month, the FCC introduced the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which can help Americans get discounts on broadband access. 

Together, these two programs could help millions of Americans get access to much-needed services they might not be able to afford otherwise.

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