May 31, 2022

Van Hollen, Markey, Meng Urge Passage of More Funding to Close the Digital Divide as FCC Funding for Student Internet Access Wanes

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Grace Meng (N.Y.-06) released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it received $2.8 billion in requests for funds from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in the third application window. The ECF – which the lawmakers created as part of the American Rescue Plan – has helped more than 12.5 million students connect to the internet but only has an estimated $1.5 billion remaining in the program and therefore likely lacks funds to meet the demand.

“By connecting more than 12.5 million students to the internet, the Emergency Connectivity Fund has provided crucial support for students and educators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the lawmakers. “But the ‘Homework Gap’ was an emergency long before the pandemic began and will remain an emergency after it is over. The Federal Communications Commission’s announcement that demand for ECF funds exceeds the remaining supply demonstrates the need to pass our SUCCESS Act and replenish the Emergency Connectivity Fund. We cannot abandon the Emergency Connectivity Fund’s impressive gains and allow millions of students to lose access to high-speed broadband.”

The FCC has distributed over $4.8 billion through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, including $69 million in Maryland, $68 million in Massachusetts, and $505 million in New York. Last year, Senators Van Hollen and Markey and Congresswoman Meng introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund created under the American Rescue Plan and provide schools and libraries with $8 billion a year over five years – for a total of $40 billion – to continue to connect students to the internet following the coronavirus pandemic. The bills currently have 17 Senate and 43 House co-sponsors, respectively.

Most recently, Maryland received $238,825 in federal funding through the Emergency Connectivity Fund to help provide schools with the tools and services they need to enhance internet connectivity in their communities. This funding has supported over 70 schools and libraries across Maryland and expanded broadband internet access for thousands of students, school staff, and library patrons.