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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls for Funding to Increase Students’ Internet Access

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fund internet connectivity and internet-enabled devices for K-12 students who are experiencing difficulty learning remotely because their schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a longstanding digital divide in North Carolina that’s having serious repercussions on young people’s education,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Kids are trying to learn from their homes with spotty internet or even from their parents’ cars parked in public library parking lots. We have to make sure they have reliable access to broadband, and I urge the FCC to take steps to make it easier for our students to learn remotely.”

The FCC’s E-Rate program provides funding to better connect schools and libraries in all parts of the nation. Attorney General Stein and 29 other attorneys general are urging the FCC to promptly amend or waive E-Rate program rules as necessary to provide broadband connectivity for remote schooling. By waiving these restrictions, schools can extend their broadband internet networks to students’ homes and use E-Rate funds to support Wi-Fi hotspots or other broadband connections for students who don’t have adequate internet connectivity. At least 55 million K-12 students in the U.S. have, at one time or another, been forced to rely on online learning when their classrooms were closed. The places that become their remote classrooms – including their living rooms, bedrooms, or basements – deserve the same E-Rate support.

These remote learning struggles are even more challenging for young people who are learning in parts of North Carolina that have insufficient broadband access and limited internet connectivity. Without a reliable internet connection, students’ educational opportunities are almost non-existent, and the disparities between students in rural and urban areas continue to worsen. Attorney General Stein has urged state leaders to use nearly $14 million in funding won by the Department of Justice in a settlement with Dish Network to strengthen broadband throughout the state.

School districts stand ready to use E-Rate funded services to rapidly connect their students to high-speed internet. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 E-Rate program participants, 93 percent reported that they would use E-Rate funds to connect students at home for virtual schooling, if allowed by the FCC.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.  

A copy of the letter is available here.

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