National Digital Inclusion Alliance supports new legislation, which was introduced today, to extend the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (EFC) and thus support schools and libraries’ providing devices and connectivity in their communities. 

The legislation, Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act, would provide $40 billion over five years and was introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), along with 15 additional senators and 25 House members.  

The Emergency Connectivity Fund was originally created under the American Rescue Plan, and if funding continues with this new legislation, its extension would provide schools and libraries with $8 billion a year over five years — for a total of $40 billion — to continue to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices to students, staff, and library patrons.

An estimated 12 to 17 million students in the United States face a homework gap because of lack of internet access at home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these students suffered an education and opportunity gap, and as students return to school in person, the homework gap continues to be a threat.

“Even after the coronavirus pandemic finally ends, we cannot ignore a key 21st century educational requirement — internet access. The homework gap is an educational inequity that long predates the current emergency, and we need to put the funding in place to ensure no student is forced to sit in a strip mall parking lot, hoping to connect to a local store’s internet in order to finish their homework,” said Senator Markey. “This essential funding will build on the newly created Emergency Connectivity Fund and help ensure that the homework gap does not grow into a damaging learning and opportunity gap following the pandemic for our children, particularly those who live in communities of color, low-income households, and rural areas.” 

Under the American Rescue Plan, Congress provided a one-time, $7.17 billion appropriation to connect students and library patrons struggling to learn at home. The SUCCESS Act will provide crucial additional funding to ensure that the kids who are finally being connected by the Emergency Connectivity Fund are not disconnected once the original funds run dry.

NDIA supports the inclusion of both devices and internet connectivity in the SUCCESS Act. Also, the inclusion of libraries in the proposed legislation will bring an even greater impact, as libraries are essential partners in bridging the digital divide. 

NDIA’s own executive director, Angela Siefer, was cited in today’s announcement. “Libraries and schools have proven repeatedly that they are essential to reducing the digital divide,” she said. “The SUCCESS Act provides the resources necessary to build on the experience of libraries and schools providing home connectivity, computers and digital literacy support.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.