Subsidized Broadband Benefit Program Available for K-12 Today

May 12, 2021 by Victoria Turner

Amanda Schermerhorn recently majored in political science at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. During the pandemic, she often had to use her Detroit Lakes campus free wi-fi from her car in the parking lot, along with other students, just to finish her classwork due to the unreliable broadband connection in her rural Minnesotan community. 

Her four school-aged children, like so many other K-12 students, did not have that option, she said today. She told her story on a press call during which the Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona spoke about the recently launched Emergency Broadband Benefit Program that provides eligible households with discounted, high-speed broadband service as well as devices like a tablet or a computer.

“Lower speeds means having to spend more time on classwork,” said Schermerhorn, who has found herself repeatedly waking up at 4 a.m. to finish her homework before waking up her children to help them with theirs. 

And “not all communities have local broadband access,” she said. The numbers alone of disconnected communities illustrate how “crucial” programs like the EBB Program will be in closing the digital divide between communities that have broadband access and those that don’t.

“Roughly 16 million students lack adequate access to the internet,” Schermerhorn said. Twenty-one percent of those are in urban areas, 27% in suburban areas and 37% – which includes her household – are in rural areas. Nine million students, she charged, don’t even have proper devices.

Ronsenworcel said the  “homework gap” between students who could not complete their homework due to this lack of access and those who could, has “[become] a full-fledged education gap” during the pandemic. 

Starting today, the temporary program is making $3.2 billion available in discounts from $50 per month to eligible households, $75 for those on eligible tribal lands, and up to $100 for a one-time purchase of a device. Eight-hundred twenty-five broadband providers have committed to the program, Rosenworcel said, so families will be able to choose the service “with this 50-dollar support system” that best suits their cost and service speed needs. 

Partnering up with the Department of Education, the FCC’s EBB is available for K-12 households that are receiving benefits under the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program and about 30,000 students attending Community Eligibility Provision schools under the Department of Agriculture. It is also eligible for recipients of Pell Grants, which are awarded to low-income and working students like Amanda enrolled in post-secondary education. 

The program is supposed to last until six months after the Department of Health and Human Services announces the end of the pandemic, but Rosenworcel told reporters today that it will also serve as data points for future programs or any subsequent version of the temporary one. 

In The News

Health

Voting

Education

Bill Aims to Boost Hiring of School Social Workers, Counselors
Mental Health
Bill Aims to Boost Hiring of School Social Workers, Counselors
June 22, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, a bill recently reintroduced by members of the Senate and House, aims to increase the presence of social workers, counselors and other personnel to support marginalized students. “Our legislation is pretty simple. It says that federal dollars from here... Read More

Supreme Court Hands Win to Student Athletes
Sports
Supreme Court Hands Win to Student Athletes
June 22, 2021
by Dan McCue

In a unanimous decision Monday, the justices held the NCAA can’t enforce rules limiting education-related benefits — like computers and paid internships — that colleges offer to student athletes. The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether... Read More

FAFSA Simplification Act Delayed
Education
FAFSA Simplification Act Delayed
June 17, 2021
by Ansley Puckett

WASHINGTON - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid Simplification Act, which will implement changes to simplify the FAFSA application process, has been delayed by a year. On Friday, the Office of Federal Student Aid announced that the act will be fully implemented by the 2024-2025... Read More

Senate Looks at Biden’s 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Education
Education
Senate Looks at Biden’s 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Education
June 17, 2021
by Ansley Puckett

WASHINGTON- The Senate Appropriations subcommittee met Wednesday to examine President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the Department of Education. The $102.8 billion budget for the Department’s programs and activities is a $29.8 billion increase from the 2021 fiscal year budget and includes the American... Read More

Department of Education Confirms Title IX Protects Gay and Transgender Students
Civil Rights
Department of Education Confirms Title IX Protects Gay and Transgender Students
June 16, 2021
by Ansley Puckett

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Department of Education confirmed Wednesday that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational activity or program offered by public schools or... Read More

Loan Relief Granted to Defrauded For-Profit College Students
Education
Loan Relief Granted to Defrauded For-Profit College Students

The U.S. Education Department said Wednesday it's erasing student debt for thousands of borrowers who attended a for-profit college chain that made exaggerated claims about its graduates' success in finding jobs. The Biden administration said it is approving 18,000 loan forgiveness claims from former students of... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top