Sen Klobuchar et al urge Congressional leaders to ensure Broadband for College Students

From Senator Klobuchar’s office…

Klobuchar, Eshoo Lead Bicameral Letter Urging Congressional Leaders to Ensure College Students in Need Have Access to High-Speed Internet

In May, Klobuchar and Eshoo introduced bicameral legislation to help ensure students with financial need can access critical internet services

Joined by 15 colleagues in the House and Senate, letter calls for dedicated funding in future legislation to ensure students have access to internet service and devices, such as laptops and tablets, to learn from home during the pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) led 15 colleagues from both the House and Senate in a bicameral letter to Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy urging the leaders to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In May, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial needs can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $1 billion to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. Eshoo introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives with Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Alma Adams (D-NC).

“Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.”

Klobuchar and Eshoo were joined on the letter by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-PA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA).

Klobuchar has also called for dedicated funding to ensure all K-12 students have access to the internet during the pandemic. In March, Klobuchar led a letter with Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) urging the FCC to ensure that all K-12 students have internet access and can continue learning from home as schools nationwide are closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Klobuchar also joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and 40 other Senators to introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act. The bill would establish a $4 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide support for schools and libraries to ensure that K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

We write to urge you to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As colleges and universities across the country have transitioned to distance learning to limit the spread of coronavirus, many students who relied on campus resources are struggling to continue their education from home.  One of the biggest barriers for students of color, students in rural areas, and other disadvantaged students is lack of access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity, equipment required for connectivity, and devices. These are all required to participate in distance learning. Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets.  Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.

While the spring semester is ending, colleges and universities are moving summer classes and programs online and will likely continue distance learning into the next school year. As it remains unclear when effective treatment or a vaccine will be available, connecting college and university students to the internet is even more essential.

Although the CARES Act included funding for institutions of higher education, it did not include dedicated funding sufficient to ensure that college and university students have essential internet connectivity. It is for this reason we introduced the bicameral Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act, which is supported by over 60 higher education, civil rights, and public interest organizations.  We urge you to include $1 billion in dedicated funding in a future coronavirus relief package to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, can pay for at-home internet connectivity, equipment, and devices such as laptops and tablets.

Thank you for your attention to this highly important issue. We stand ready to work with you to help keep college and university students connected at this critical time.

Sincerely,

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Government, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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