Attorney General Balderas Pushes FCC to Provide Additional Pandemic Funding to Students for Remote Learning

For Immediate Release:
February 23, 2021
Contact: Matt Baca — (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM—Attorney General Balderas today joined 30 attorneys general in urging
the Federal Communications Commission to fund internet connectivity and internetenabled 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