Says while commission’s hands tied on e-rate, CARES Act money is available
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that while the FCC’s hands are tied when it comes to applying E-rate schools and libraries funding to remote learning during the pandemic, there are billions of dollars that could already be applied to that purpose that Congress has already allocated and the FCC is working on getting educators to spend on education tech.
Pai explained that funding route on a webcast Thursday (June 25) with Bruce Mehlmen, IIA Founding co-chairman and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Tech Policy.
Pai pointed out, as he did in a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing June 24, that since the statute specifies that E-rate funding goes to “classroom” connectivity and tech, it can’t be spent on home connectivity.
During the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed Pai to find a way to revise classroom to include home, saying he thought the chairman had the power to do so.
Pai said in the webinar that he understood the frustration, and had asked Congress to clear away that statutory language impediment, in the meantime, and while some people suggest the FCC can just waive statutory language, as a lawyer he knows that is not the case.
But he also pointed out on the webinar that the CARES Act COVID-19 aid bill allocated $16 billion for schools and that the FCC was working with the Department of Education to let schools know that one of the things that money could be used for is educational tech.
Pai said that working together, schools and the FCC can provide a holistic approach to distance learning and get students the connectivity they need.