New internet funds to help close student ‘homework gap’

Robin Layton

Sep 25, 2023 — 2 min read

FCC commits $41M to libraries and school districts for technology and internet access.

Young student using laptop with schoolbooks open on the home desk.

The federal government is directing nearly $41 million to the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program to support 220 schools and libraries to help close the homework gap. 

“The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, and online learning programs to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education,” stated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) press release on Sept. 20, 2023.

The homework gap is a part of the digital divide that separates those who have internet access and can afford it from those who do not have access and cannot afford it. Educators quickly discovered the issue was larger than realized when the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic drove classrooms to be fully online. 

“With the school year in full swing, the FCC continues its work to ensure students everywhere have access to broadband connections and digital tools they need to successfully complete their schoolwork. That’s why we’re pleased to announce another round of funding to help close the Homework Gap for students headed back to class,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

This funding will benefit around 110,000 students in Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington.

The FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a $7 billion program providing remote learning tools. It covers “reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.”

The FCC reports that since the fund’s creation, support has been provided to over 18 million students, 11,300 schools, 1,060 libraries, and 120 consortia, and provided nearly 13 million connected devices and over 8 million broadband connections.

Rosenworcel’s focus on education was sharpened with the “Learn Without Limits” initiative announced over the summer. She is asking for Wi-Fi to be available on school buses and for a loan program for Wi-Fi hotspots. 

This plan would be part of a revamped E-Rate program created to get internet access in schools. It’s changed over the years to meet new needs across the U.S., most recently granting E-Rate eligibility to Tribal College and University libraries that serve as public libraries to their Tribal community. 

The proposed changes to the E-Rate program require the full vote of the FCC, expected in the fall.

Low-income internet options

As part of the government’s movement to close the digital divide, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) allows eligible households to receive a $30/mo. stipend to help with internet plan affordability.

Many internet service providers like Xfinity and Windstream offer up to 100 Mbps for $30/mo. or under, making the internet service free for the customers. Nearly 20 million homes are receiving the benefit.

See Allconnect’s low-income guide for other available programs.

See Allconnect’s News and Research hubs for more broadband guides and information.

Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site … Read more