More than $72 million in federal COVID-19 assistance funds has been awarded to Hawaii public schools, and a handful of charter and private schools, to help close the “digital equity” gap suffered by students who don’t have a way to connect to the internet at home.

The money is to be used to cover costs of laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff and library patrons.

The $72 million is from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March 2021.

More than 20% of Hawaii’s public school students couldn’t get online from home at the height of pandemic distance learning in 2020 and 2021, according to state Department of Education statistics, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Friday.

Case will hold a live conversation at noon Wednesday via his official Facebook page titled “Talk Story: Hawai‘i Broadband,” to discuss the state’s broadband network and digital equity, and how federal resources can be best used to advance connectivity. Guests will include Burt Lum, state strategy officer in the Hawaii Broadband and Digital Equity Office, and David Miya­shiro, founding executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN.

Read the full article here.


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