Schools and libraries can start filing applications on June 29 for financial support for various tech equipment, including laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. The funding comes available by way of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC announced.
The fund itself is the largest single effort for student connectivity in the nation’s history, according to acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel It was designed to build on the the processes and structures of the existing E-Rate program, a Universal Service Fund (USF) program aimed at assisting schools and libraries with technology and connectivity funding support.
The need is evident, according to the FCC, with as many as 17 million children without the broadband access they need for remote learning. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 13. The FCC will also hold a webinar on June 25th at at 2:00 p.m. EDT to outline the program and discuss the application process.
“For too long, the homework gap has been a troubling and persistent digital equity problem in the United States,” said Rosenworcel in a prepared statement. “With classes themselves moving online and the pandemic requiring us to stay home, we went from having millions of children who couldn’t do online homework assignments to having millions of children who couldn’t do schoolwork at all. In other words, the Homework Gap became a full-fledged learning and education gap.”
Funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund was appropriated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which aims to assist with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will be administered through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).