New FCC-funded program aims to connect more students, libraries to the internet

A new $7 billion federal program that aims to get more students hooked up with a quality internet connection was rolled out to the public Tuesday by the Federal Communication Commission.

The Emergency Connectivity program is open to eligible schools and libraries, with registration starting Tuesday and running through Aug. 13.

“There’s a huge problem with the digital divide nationally and in our region,” said Mimi Yeh, with the local nonprofit Connected DMV.

Yeh’s group works with local governments and organizations, helping to expand access to reliable internet service, devices and digital literacy skills.

“We will increasingly have a shortage of digitally-literate people in our region and in our workforces,” Yeh said. “It’s going to keep growing.”

The new program provides funding for items such as Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, tablets, modems, routers and broadband connectivity purchases to students and school staff members who can access the internet when they are off-campus.

“Because of the pandemic, a lot of these infrastructure needs and a lot of these inequities in our region were brought to light even more than they had been before,” Yeh said.

Earlier this month, the FCC launched a similar $3 billion program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

That program helps families and households struggling to afford internet service by providing financial discounts for the purchase of broadband service along with laptops, desktop computers or tablets.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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