2021 – S.3184 / A.5180

2021 – S.3184 / A.5180

Position Statement

S.3184 (Mayer) / A.5180 (Benedetto)

Support

WBASNY supports the E-LEARN ACT (S.3184/A.5180). This bill was introduced by more than 25 Senators and is an extensive proposal to ensure that children throughout New York State have access to technology through high quality broadband internet connectivity.

This bill’s purpose is to ensure that children who did not formerly have access to the internet will gain such access. Families of students who formerly did not have access to the internet will qualify for reduced costs if they supply their contact information. School Districts will report needs for internet access to the New York State Department of Education. The service will be paid for by telecommunication service providers based on communication revenue for the year or two prior  and the telecommunication service provider cannot pass the cost on to customers. The money will be deposited into an E-learn fund which is separate and apart from other money in the custody of the State Comptroller.

The program is effective only during the pandemic and expires when the emergency declared by the Governor ends. The bill ensures that all children will have the internet resources required to obtain a free education whether or not their families are able to afford internet connectivity.

WBASNY is hopeful that the funding under the bill will also be used to build out broadband access to unserved or underserved communities throughout New York State.  For many school-aged children, access to high quality broadband internet connectivity is more than just a matter of equipment and the ability to pay a telecommunications provider for monthly service.  In some areas of the state, particularly upstate and western New York, there simply is no broadband internet service to access.  This critical infrastructure buildout is required to provide internet connectivity to all children regardless of location.  The bill recognizes that learning during the pandemic has been challenging for children who do not have access to the internet and ensures that all children have access to high quality technology to meet New York State’s constitutional requirement to maintain a system of free schooling.

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