May 13, 2020

Hirono, Klobuchar, Peters, Rosen, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Bill to Boost High-Speed Internet Access for College Students Completing Coursework During Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) introduced a bill to boost access to high-speed internet for college students as they continue their studies remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act would invest $1 billion for the creation of the Emergency Higher Education Connectivity Fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration. The Fund would support college and graduate students now studying from home by providing internet connections and equipment like Wi-Fi hotspots, routers, modems, laptops, tablets and other internet-enabled devices. The bill prioritizes students most likely to lack internet access, including those studying at minority-serving and rural-serving institutions, and students who receive need-based financial aid—like Pell Grants—and other government assistance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the digital divide in America. There are an estimated 14 million households—including more than 52,000 Hawaii households—that don’t have any internet,” Senator Hirono said. “The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act invests in college students who are trying to keep up with their studies by providing internet-connected devices and broadband access to continue their education, even as social distancing continues.”

“The Emergency Higher Education Connectivity Fund will provide critically needed support for our students who need us most,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner, who chaired the State of Hawaii Broadband Task Force. “Having adequate equipment and broadband service is now essential for success in higher education, and the students who stand to benefit most from higher education often face the greatest financial and geographic barriers."

Senator Hirono has advocated for additional funding during the pandemic for the Lifeline Program, which boosts internet connectivity for lower-income Americans. She has also introduced legislation to close the digital equity gap, so that students, families, and workers have access to technological resources and information, regardless of income.

The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act is endorsed by organizations that include the Higher Learning Advocates, ED2WORK, Student Veterans of America, The Education Trust, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Urban League, National Action Network, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Public Knowledge, MediaJustice, Young Invincibles, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, New America’s Open Technology Institute, OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, ACT, Inc., UnidosUS, American Council on Education, EDUCAUSE, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National League of Cities, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), American Association of State Colleges and Universities, College Forward, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, New America's Higher Education Program, National Skills Coalition, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, America Forward, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Association of Community College Trustees, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Breakthrough Central Texas, Cornell Student Assembly, Council for Opportunity in Education, CUNY University Student Senate, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, Greater Memphis Chamber, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, LeadMN, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville State Community College Foundation, National Association of College and University Business Officers, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, New England Commission of Higher Education, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Rebuilding America's Middle Class, San Antonio Education Partnership, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, St. Louis Graduates, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, Students United, The Graduate! Network, Inc., uAspire, University of California Student Association, and the WASC Senior College and University Commission.