The FCC says that it will grant requests in order of need and with a preference for rural areas as it works through the Emergency Connectivity Funds (ECF) recently completed third application filing window.
The FCC said it received requests for $2,814,736,532. Those applications represent 5,120,453 connected devices and 4,285,794 broadband connections. The FCC said that it expects that it will be able to give good news to many of the applicants, which include 7,369 schools and school districts, 628 libraries and library systems and 133 consortia. There is about $1.5 billion remaining in the $7.17 billion programs, the commission added.
The ECF, which was part of The American Rescue Plan, aims to help communities weather the COVID-19 pandemic. It is administered by schools and libraries and is aimed at off-campus use.
To date, more than 12.5 million students have benefited and schools and libraries have been provided with more than 10 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections. More than $4.8 million in funding commitments have been made, including more than $4 billion from Window 1 and more than $815 million from Window 2 applications.
“The continued interest in the Emergency Connectivity Fund demonstrates what we’ve known for a long time – far too many kids across the country need off-campus support to get online and keep up with their schoolwork. This program has been able to help millions of students over the past year and into the coming school year. I’m proud of that,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release about the ECF applications. “We received more requests than Congress gave us funds to support for this final round of applications, so we’re prioritizing those with the greatest need. But the work doesn’t stop there. We’ll continue to look for ways to close the Homework Gap and ensure no child is left offline. The third and presumably final filing window ran from April 28 to May 13.
A sign that the ECF is winding down is a proposed Declaratory Ruling issued by the FCC earlier this month. If approved, it would allow the use of the E-Rate program to fund the deployment of Wi-Fi on school buses. The ECF has dedicated $35 million for this purpose.