Congresswoman Grace Meng hosted a roundtable discussion with Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on June 27 to highlight the success of New York City schools and libraries recently receiving federal funding to increase internet access for students, particularly those who lacked internet connection at home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the roundtable, which took place at P.S. 154Q in Fresh Meadows, several students in high school and junior high school talked about the importance of having access to the internet for their schoolwork and highlighted the impact and problems that a lack of access has caused.
Meng helped create the program that provides this money, known as the Emergency Connectivity Fund and she helped secure more than $7.1 billion for it. The funding was included in the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 relief package that was passed by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Biden in March 2021.
In June 2021, Meng encouraged Queens schools to seek funding when the application period opened. And in the fall of 2021, schools and libraries across the nation — including in Queens and throughout New York City — began receiving the money, which has paid for Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, internet service and internet-enabled devices.
“Internet connectivity is part of our daily lives. But millions of kids have lived in homes without any internet connection, and that has created an unacceptable obstacle to education in our country and throughout New York,” Meng said. “From remote learning during the coronavirus crisis to completing schoolwork and assignments, access to the internet is essential for today’s students to succeed in their studies.”
She added, “As the mother of two school-aged boys, I am passionate about this issue, and know firsthand how crucial it is. Fortunately, we have seen the Emergency Connectivity Fund begin to address this problem by providing internet access to millions of students, and its success has put us on the road towards closing the digital divide. Our kids are our future. We must make the needed investments to ensure the next generation’s success which in turn ensures the future success of our nation.”
According to Rosenworcel, too many children across the country, including Queens, are still struggling to keep up with their schoolwork because they lack internet access at home.
“That’s unacceptable. The Homework Gap is one of the cruelest parts of the digital divide, but we have the power to fix it,” Rosenworcel said. “Thanks to the support of leaders like Congresswoman Grace Meng, the FCC received funding to create the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will now help millions of students nationwide with the broadband connections and devices they need for homework and more. We still have more work to do to make sure every kid across the country has the internet access they need, but I’m more optimistic than ever that working together we can make this a reality.”
In addition to securing the money for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, Meng has underscored the need for continued federal funding to ensure that students stay connected and don’t lose their online access when the funding runs out, particularly with the new school year just a few months away.
So, she has introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to build on the success of the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
The bill would extend the program by allocating $8 billion a year over five years — for a total of $40 billion — to continue providing Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, internet service and internet-enabled devices to students. She has also asked congressional leaders to support her efforts for additional money.