The largest Emergency Connectivity Fund library award — $30 million — went to Harris County Public Library in Harris County, Texas. T-Mobile and Google are working with the library to provide county residents with 15,000 Chromebooks and 40,000 T-Mobile 5G MiFi hotspots with unlimited data on the carrier’s 5G network.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund awards are administered by schools and libraries and are designed to provide equipment and connectivity to those without adequate Internet access. The ECF is a $7.17 billion program that was created by Congress in the American Rescue Plan Act
Harris County includes Houston and other areas. All of the library system’s 26 branches and 20 community partners are participating, with hotspots becoming available on Feb. 16.
Residents need to have or sign up for a library card and complete an application to borrow equipment. The initial check out period will last until June 30. The HCPL is exploring funding opportunities to extend that date.
“Supporting customers like Harris County Public Library in an initiative aimed at breaking down barriers to access is a great example of how we can open even more doors of opportunity by coming together,” Dave Bezzant, the Vice President for T-Mobile for Government said in a press release about the largest Emergency Connectivity Fund library award. “Extending opportunities to make it easier for people to wirelessly connect to school and work helps to further bridge the digital divide.”
Earlier this week, the FCC said it has committed an additional $125,962,023.72 in the ninth wave of the Emergency Connectivity Fund program. The awards will support more than 270,000 students and provide funds to 340 schools, 20 libraries and six consortia. To this point, more than $4.5 billion has been committed.