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Months into the pandemic, digital divide still leaves poor kids at a disadvantage

Ohio Capital Journal |

Members of the U.S. Senate are pushing for $4 billion in the next coronavirus relief package to help students in rural and low-income areas gain access to high speed internet.

Senate Democrats sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week urging the agency to allow broadband connection into students’ homes by expanding the E-Rate Program, which helps schools and libraries connect to the internet. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argued that the FCC has the ability to expand the program without permission from Congress. “The consequences are dire,” Van Hollen told Maryland Matters. “I urge the FCC to use their existing authorities to expand internet accessibility, and I will continue to push my Republican colleagues to provide desperately needed funds for these efforts.”

Data from Common Sense Media, a non-profit that conducts media research, has shown that the number of kids lacking access is as high as 16 million. Studies have shown that Black, Latino and low-income students are disproportionately affected. About 15 percent of households with school-aged kids don’t have access to high speed internet at home, according to a Pew Research study that analyzed the 2015 U.S. Census data.