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In Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Steyer Asks Congress to Help Close California’s Digital Divide

(San Francisco, CA, August 6th) – In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Tom Steyer called on Congress today to provide the federal resources necessary to help close California’s digital divide. As schools in California return to remote learning, 1.5 million K-12 students lack adequate internet connectivity and 1 million students lack the devices necessary to do school work. As Co-Chair of Governor Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, Steyer is working with business and government leaders across the state to bridge the digital divide, and federal resources are a critical piece in ensuring kids can learn remotely and effectively. To that effect, the letter calls for an additional $4 Billion in E-Rate funds through the HEROES Act to be used for home connectivity in California.

As Tom writes in the letter, “the vast majority of Americans understand that high-speed internet at home is an essential service, like electricity and water, to conduct work, learn, and stay connected to health care providers, family, and friends.”

The full text of the letter to Speaker Pelosi can be found below:

August 5, 2020
Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of The House
1236 Longworth Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Madam Speaker,

As the Co-Chair of Governor Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, I am writing to thank you for your efforts to secure another coronavirus emergency response package and to strongly encourage you to keep as one of your top priorities in it funding to close the digital divide for low-income students and students of color in California and across the country. We know you have many competing demands but we want to stress in the strongest possible terms how important we believe it is to ensure that all children have the same opportunity to learn this coming semester even as 80 to 90 percent of students across our state will be affected due to the pandemic.

Specifically, we appreciate your support in the HEROES Act for funding through the FCC’s E-Rate program to close the Homework Gap. Our request to you at this time is to ensure that the next COVID package contains $4 Billion through E-Rate with emergency authority for E-Rate to be used for home connectivity and devices for kids who need them. Given that the school year is beginning momentarily and that 1.5 million California K-12 students live in households without adequate internet connectivity and 1 million California school kids lack adequate devices at home to do school work, time is of the essence to close this critical learning gap. Using E-Rate, rather than creating a new program through the FCC or going through the Department of Education, is the fastest and most transparent process and the one that will ensure taxpayer dollars are the most efficiently expended. These funds are necessary because we are now asking parents to pay for access to free public school education – we understand the necessity for remote learning during the pandemic but we cannot punish poor families by requiring them to pay for access to public school.

As you know, the vast majority of Americans understand that high-speed internet at home is an essential service, like electricity and water, to conduct work, learn, and stay connected to health care providers, family, and friends. Thank you for continuing to make the Homework Gap one of your top priorities in the next COVID package.

Sincerely,

Tom Steyer

Chief Advisor to Governor Newsom on Business and Jobs Recovery & Co-Chair of Governor Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery