Schools seek $5.1B for broadband from FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund

FCC meeting room
Due to the strong demand for support, the FCC said it will open a second application window from September 28 to October 13. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed plans to open a second application window for Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) support after an initial round elicited an overwhelming response from schools and libraries looking to purchase broadband service and connected devices.

Officials said in a press release the agency received requests for a total of $5.14 billion in ECF support from eligible entities across all 50 states during the first filing window, which closed on August 13. Specifically, applicants sought money to purchase a total of 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections.

Looking at funding requests by state, California sought the largest amount with a total of $812 million. New York and Texas rounded out the top three, asking for a total of $559.7 million and $496.5 million, respectively. Wyoming requested the least amount of support at just under $3 million, followed by North Dakota ($3.6 million) and Montana ($4.2 million).

The $7.17 billion ECF was established in March to help schools and libraries fund the purchase of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and commercial broadband service to meet the off-campus needs of students and patrons.

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Due to the strong demand for support, the FCC said it will open a second application window from September 28 to October 13. As was the case during the first filing window, funding is meant to go toward equipment and services which will be delivered before the end of the current school year (which the FCC has pegged at June 30, 2022).

Acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement the “robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities” for connectivity and devices.

“The pandemic highlighted like never before the difference a reliable internet connection can make in a student’s education, and we want to make sure that as many schools and libraries can apply for support this school year,” she added. “The need is there, and the opening of a second application window reflects that.”

The government has also seen a strong response to other broadband support programs. In July, the FCC said more than 4 million households have already enrolled in its Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which offers a discount on monthly broadband service. And this week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) revealed it received funding requests totaling $2.5 billion for its $288 million Broadband Infrastructure Program.