WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) in introducing the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring K-12 students have greater home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The closure of schools nationwide has shined a light on the digital divide that far too many of our nation’s students faced, even before the pandemic,” said the Senators. “We are working to bring critical internet connectivity and 21st-century digital learning tools to Nevada’s students and families. We will continue working on legislation to help our hardworking teachers and ensure that our students have the tools they need to continue learning during this unprecedented public health crisis.”
BACKGROUND: The Emergency Educational Connections Act would:
- Provide $4 billion in federal ERate program support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
- Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
- Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.
The changes to the eligible uses of ERate funding is even more necessary in Nevada, as school districts in Nevada are developing innovative ways to connect students, including through the use of Wi-Fi on school buses. That is why both Senators have made that request a priority within the Emergency Educational Connections Act. In addition, multiple Nevada school districts have requested this funding support as part of a future Coronavirus relief legislation.
The Nevada Senators have been working directly with the State Broadband Director JoJo Myers Compos to support various grant applications to expand broadband access and applications stemming from the CARES Act, such as telehealth and distance learning, in addition to engaging with the private sector to add support to this effort. The Senators are also jointly advocating to Congressional leadership to include additional funding for small internet providers for rural communities, as well as previously advocating for billions for the federal ERate program that supports broadband access and devices through schools and libraries who are in closest contact with our students.