Queens lawmaker secures funding to increase internet access for New York City students

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After many students lacked internet access to do their school work remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak, Congresswoman Grace Meng announced on Friday, Sept. 24, that New York City schools have been awarded millions of dollars in federal funding to connect students to the internet. 

In March, Meng and Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), helped to obtain more than $7 billion in E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Funding for schools to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, internet service and internet-enabled devices so that students can obtain internet access during the COVID-19 crisis. 

These funds include more than $192 million for New York City schools, and nearly $739,000 for some schools in Meng’s district in Queens. 

When the application period opened in June, Meng urged schools to seek funding. 

“During the pandemic, we have seen how crucial internet access has been for learning and completing assignments. During remote learning, it was essential. It is unacceptable and unconscionable that millions of students across the country, including many in New York, still don’t have access to the internet, and this lack of connectivity continues to be a barrier to academic success,” Meng said. “Each and every student deserves to have the tools they need to succeed, and that includes being able to get online.”

Meng thanked and commended Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and her team for supporting and administering the vital program. 

“Too many kids struggle without the broadband they need for nightly schoolwork. The homework gap is the cruelest part of our digital divide. But the FCC has new tools to fix it,” Rosenworcel said. “Today, the FCC announced $1.2 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support is headed to thousands of schools and libraries to help, including many across New York. I’m grateful for Congresswoman’s Meng’s commitment to ensuring 100 percent of us have the affordable internet access we need for modern-day success, including our students.”

 The E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Fund money that Meng helped secure was included in the American Rescue Plan, the most recent coronavirus relief package passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law in March by President Biden.

The first wave of funding that the FCC is allocating under the program includes more than $1.2 billion for more than 3,000 schools and libraries to connect over 3.6 million students to the internet.

In July, Meng, Markey and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – along with other Senators and House members – introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to build on the success of securing funding. 

The money would extend the Emergency Connectivity Fund by providing $8 billion a year over five years — for a total of $40 billion — in order to continue providing Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and internet-enabled devices to students following the COVID-19 crisis.