The Federal Communications Commission has continued to show its commitment to digital equity by committing $1.1 billion to schools and libraries in the second wave of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. This funding supports off-premises educational needs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. In particular, the program is funding devices and broadband to support learning that occurs “off-premises,” or outside of school and library campuses, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, the FCC has committed nearly $2.4 billion and has connected nearly 8 million students with tech devices, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-premises use. This is in contrast to the FCC’s Schools and Libraries Program (or E-rate), which allows Universal Service Funds to be used only for connectivity purposes on school and library campuses or to connect a school or library to the Internet. In addition, unlike the E-rate program, the ECF subsidy was 100% and there was no separate competitive bidding requirement (although any state and local procurement rules still apply). Significantly, the FCC has exceeded its initial goal by funding decisions for nearly 60% of applications within 60 days of the closing of the first filing window. These contributions have aided in funding over 2.4 million devices and 1.9 million broadband connections nationally.
If you have questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund program, please contact our office for more information.