Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., introduced legislation Feb. 28 that would increase the number of children who have internet access in their homes to close the “homework gap.”

“Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “But without internet access at home, many students face significant barriers in completing their schoolwork. The homework gap exacerbates educational inequality, and we must work to address it immediately.”

The legislation, dubbed the Homework Gap Trust Fund Act, would address the 12 million students who lack internet access in their homes. To do so, the bill would direct “a small portion” of revenue from the upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) C-band spectrum auction to create a Homework Gap Trust. The legislation specifies that not less than $2 billion and not more than $4 billion of the proceeds from the C-band spectrum auction would go the Homework Gap Trust Fund.

The funds would then be used on measures that would increase the number of students with internet access, including purchasing any necessary equipment, providing students with hotspot devices. The FCC would be required to submit an annual report to Congress that includes the number of funding recipients, the number of students who gained broadband internet access as a result of the funding, and the number of students who continue to “face unequal access to digital devices and broadband internet access service,” the number of hotspots provided, and the amount of data used per hotspot.

The legislation is supported by FCC Commissioner by Jessica Rosenworcel.

“The Homework Gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide. It affects all areas of this country – rural, urban and everything in between,” said Rosenworcel. “We need to fix this problem and make sure that when it comes to nightly schoolwork, no child is left offline.”

Van Hollen’s office noted that the legislation is endorsed by The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, The National Rural Education Association, among others.

“So much of our students’ learning today is driven by internet access – the ability to access timely and accurate information, participate in group projects, communicate with classmates and teachers, and utilize valuable resources often requires a computer and a connection,” said the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “So students in some zip codes are learning by one click, while others…can’t even access the Internet. This opportunity gap is a crisis. Thankfully, Senator Van Hollen is committed to removing barriers to digital access with a solution that levels the playing field and enables more affordable, reliable broadband service for every student in this country.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.