October 24, 2021

A Coalition of Education Advocates Including ALA and Urban Libraries Council (ULC) Ask FCC to Close Remote Learning Gap

Full Text of a Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Statement:

Today a coalition of education advocates petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to close the remote learning gap for the estimated 15 to 16 million students who lack home internet access. If granted, the petition would allow schools and libraries to connect these disconnected learners using funding from the E-rate program. 

Led by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the coalition of education advocates includes the American Library Association (ALA), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the State E-rate Coordinators’ Alliance (SECA), the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), the Wireless Future Project at New America, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. 

The advocates made the following statements:

“Millions of students across the country are cut off from basic education and information services because they cannot access the internet from home. As SHLB and our fellow petitioners have been saying since March, connecting these students to broadband is an urgent national priority, and we must marshal every resource possible to solve this problem. Congress created the E-rate program to bring connectivity to students wherever they may be – whether in the school building or off-campus in their virtual classroom at home. Our petition provides the FCC with the legal and policy framework to give schools and libraries the resources they need to extend service to homes during this time of crisis.” – John Windhausen Jr., executive director, SHLB Coalition

“Across the country, libraries are working to address the current digital divide by providing students and adult learners with internet hotspots, expanded Wi-Fi access on library grounds and Wi-Fi on the go with technology-equipped mobile units. Using existing E-rate authority and funds to close dire broadband gaps through libraries and schools is an effective and efficient way to expand internet access to the students and library patrons who need it most.” – Julius C. Jefferson Jr., president, ALA

“No student should fall behind academically because they lack home broadband. The FCC must move quickly to permit school systems to use E-rate to connect students learning remotely, as well as their teachers, during the pandemic.” – Keith Krueger, CAE, CEO, CoSN

“When the pandemic hit, homes became classrooms. Many families, already equipped with fast internet connections, adapted as lessons went online and video chats connected students to their teachers. For more than 15 million students, however, remote learning was like trying to learn on a remote island, cut off from essential information and instruction. Permanently closing this ‘homework gap’ will require a major investment from Congress and the Biden administration, but the FCC can take an important first step by using existing E-rate funds to provide temporary emergency help. There is no time to waste. Our students need a life raft.” – Anna Maria Chávez, executive director and CEO, NSBA

“With millions of students and teachers still engaged in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we continue to find effective ways to connect underserved households and rural communities. SETDA is pleased to join forces in supporting this petition to allow extended network access to equitably meet student digital learning needs.” – Julia Fallon, executive director, SETDA

“Since the pandemic began, our members have heard daily from school officials about their struggles to ensure their students have access to broadband from home so they can continue their education. Having a short-term, dedicated fund to help schools connect these students to remote learning is long overdue and we hope the FCC takes up the issue as soon as possible.” – Debra Kriete, chair, SECA

“Libraries cannot stand by as children without home internet access are forced to complete their schoolwork while relying on the Wi-Fi available in parking lots and fast-food restaurants — often late at night. Ensuring broadband and digital devices are in every household is essential for closing the education and economic divides, and libraries have a critical role to play in achieving that reality. As trusted and well-connected community anchors, public libraries are critical community partners for connecting the unconnected at home, building digital skills and providing tech support across rural, urban and tribal low-income communities.” — Susan Benton, president and CEO, ULC

“Pandemic school closures have turned the homework gap into a remote learning chasm for millions of students in low-income and rural communities. School districts across the country have implemented innovative solutions to connect students at home for remote learning. Under new leadership, we believe it’s time for the FCC to step up and provide the additional E-Rate funding and flexibility our schools and libraries need to invest in what works best for their students, teachers and communities.” – Michael Calabrese, director, Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute

“It is critical that the FCC act now to solve the home access problem for our students. This is an available, easy to implement solution that affects these children no matter where they live, large cities, small towns, and everywhere in between. Every student needs broadband access now and our schools and libraries are critical to make this happen.” – Kurt J. Kiefer, assistant state superintendent, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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