Section 105

Section 105 Telecom Access Commission

There shall be a special commission established pursuant to section 2A of chapter 4 of the General Laws to study equity and access to telecommunications services, including but not limited to broadband internet, for students and families in the commonwealth and to make recommendations to address inequity and the digital divide for students and families with limited access to telecommunications services. The commission shall consist of the secretary of education, or a designee; the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or a designee; 2 members to be appointed by the governor who shall have experience in broadband technology; 3 members of the senate of which the senate president shall appoint 1 to serve as co-chair, 1 of whom shall be the senate chair of the joint committee on education, 1 of whom shall be the senate chair of the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy and 1 of whom shall be a member of the minority party to be appointed by the senate minority leader; 3 members of the house of representatives of which the speaker of the house shall appoint 1 to serve as co-chair, 1 of whom shall be the house chair of the joint committee on education, 1 of whom shall be the house chair of the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy and 1 of whom shall be a member of the minority party who shall be appointed by the house minority leader; and 1 member to be appointed by each of the following organizations: Latinos for Education, Inc., the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, Inc., the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Inc., the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Inc., the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Inc., the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Inc., the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, Inc. and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.

The commission shall research, assess and develop recommendations for improving access to broadband internet and other telecommunications services throughout the commonwealth, particularly in low-income communities, rural communities and communities of color. The commission shall: (i) evaluate current levels of access to telecommunications services of households and communities in the commonwealth, including, but not limited to, access to broadband internet and low-cost cell phone plans; (ii) identify obstacles encountered by municipalities and the commonwealth in improving telecommunications infrastructure and access; (iii) examine relevant federal, state and local laws, regulations, rules and ordinances related to telecommunications service access, including efforts and best practices of other states to improve telecommunications service access; (iv) assess the impact of a lack of access to telecommunications services on students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in the commonwealth on remote, in-person and hybrid learning during the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, including by collecting data from students, families and school districts to assess the extent to which the lack of access to technology and telecommunications services prevents students from completing homework and other coursework or otherwise fully participating in remote, in-person and hybrid education; (v) review federal grant and funding sources; and (vi) assess statewide needs and ways to address barriers to providing equitable opportunities for technology education, including recommendations for developing, enhancing and expanding statewide standards and programming in support of digital literacy training and education for adults and students, improvements to technology curriculum in elementary and secondary schools including the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Frameworks and the Massachusetts Digital Literacy Now grant program.

The commission shall submit a report with the results of its study and any recommendations, together with drafts of any legislation necessary to carry such recommendations into effect, to the house and senate clerks not later than July 31, 2021.