Andrew Burstein, 13, participates in a virtual class through Don Estridge High Tech Middle School in Delray Beach, Fla., this school year.

FCC Takes One Step Closer to Offering E-Rate Funds for Remote Learning Technology

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EdWeek | by Mark Lieberman | February 1, 2021

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday took the first step toward possibly reversing its longstanding position that funds from the federal E-Rate program can’t be used to help with internet access in students’ homes.

The FCC is formally requesting comments on expanding the E-Rate program to help school districts more comprehensively address the digital divide that has kept millions of students from continuous instruction while learning from home during the pandemic.

The request for comments includes questions about which types of devices would be most useful for students who are learning at home; what guidance the FCC should provide to ensure that school districts are getting a bargain when making tech purchases; and whether the FCC should reimburse schools for purchases they’ve made in the last year to address these issues.

Equity is also a focus of the request for comments: “How can the Commission ensure that available funds are efficiently targeted and focused on the needs of rural students; Native American, African American and Latinx students; students with disabilities; and other populations of students that are [disproportionately] affected by the Homework Gap or are more expensive or difficult to reach?”

Photo: Andrew Burstein, 13, participates in a virtual class through Don Estridge High Tech Middle School in Delray Beach, Fla., this school year.Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP