On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has received requests for more than $5.1 billion to fund millions of devices and broadband connections during the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program’s first application window. The applicants were schools and libraries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and American territories seeking funding for eligible equipment and services.
The $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program “is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them,” according to a statement by acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. The program is reportedly crucial to closing the “Homework Gap,” a term for the difficulties students have completing homework when they lack internet access at home, and one of the chairwoman’s priorities while with the FCC.
According to this week’s new release, demand is exceptionally high. California alone requested more than $800 million in funding. According to the news release, the outstanding demand coupled with rising coronavirus cases has spurred the FCC to open a second application window.
In particular, eligible applicants will be able to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year. “Moreover, the rise of the Delta variant means off campus connectivity remains vital to ensuring students, school staff, and library patrons can engage in remote learning as they face challenges and uncertainty amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the FCC explained.
The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company with oversight by the FCC, and its second application filing window will run from September 28 to October 13.