ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE NEWS
Attorney General Hector Balderas today joined 30 attorneys general in urging the Federal Communications Commission to fund internet connectivity and internet-enabled devices to K-12 students whose schools are closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and who are learning online at home or other locations. This month, the FCC asked for comment on petitions urging the commission to temporarily waive some restrictions on its E-Rate program to allow schools to extend their broadband internet networks to students’ homes and to allow E-Rate funds to support Wi-Fi hotspots or other broadband connections for students who lack adequate internet connectivity to participate in remote schooling. In their comment letter to the FCC, the attorneys general urge the commission to promptly take action to unlock the doors of the virtual classroom while physical schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The digital divide in New Mexico is among the worst in the nation, and students in our communities, particularly tribal communities, are suffering even more now with lack of access to the internet,” said Attorney General Balderas. “Federal, state, and local governments must do everything within their power to make sure that our most vulnerable students have equal access to the internet and education.”
The E-Rate program provides funding to better connect schools and libraries in all parts of the nation—urban, suburban and rural. Now, all parts of the nation are struggling with the best means to educating K-12 students during the waves of a pandemic. 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. When schools are closed, the living room, bedroom, or basement becomes the classroom and deserves the same E-Rate support. 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% reported that they would use E-Rate funds to connect students at home for virtual schooling, if allowed by the FCC.
The attorneys general also state in their letter that, given the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC is authorized to amend or waive E-Rate program rules as necessary to provide broadband connectivity for remote schooling.
Attorney General Balderas is joined in the letter by the attorneys general from 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 York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.