The Federal Communications Commission is opening a third — and possibly final — application window for districts seeking funding from a pool of money dedicated to covering the costs of improving student and teacher access to devices and broadband used away from school campuses.
At least a minimum of $1 billion will be available to districts seeking funding for the upcoming school year during the third application filing period for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, according to an FCC order.
That money can be used by districts for laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers to connect students and staff at home or wherever learning is taking place away from school buildings.
It’s part of a roughly $7.2 billion pot created by Congress last year as a component of a COVID-19 stimulus package to address the so-called homework gap.
The FCC received $6.4 billion of funding requests during the first two ECF application filing periods, and is using leftover money to fulfill still-persistent demand for devices and broadband connectivity.
More than 9 million devices and 5.4 million broadband connections were funded during the first application window, the FCC has said.
The third application window starts on April 28 and closes on May 13.
Districts can use money from the third filing window to buy devices and high-speed internet connectivity tools received or delivered between July 1, 2022 and Dec. 31 2023.
The FCC cites the “continuing demand for prospective equipment and services and ECF stakeholders’ concerns about meeting the persisting unmet connectivity needs of students, school staff, and library patrons during the upcoming school year.”
The estimated $1 billion that will be available during the third application window reflects the leftover total remaining once requests from the first and second windows are fully committed and administrative expenses are covered, along with application cancellations, according to the FCC.
The third application window based on the service end dates of existing ECF-supported services such as monthly costs for Wi-Fi hot spots or other broadband access provided to students and teachers at home, according to the FCC.
“We believe these actions will maximize the use of the limited ECF funds and allow applicants to continue to provide eligible equipment and services to their students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise be unable to fully engage in remote learning without the continuation of the ECF-supported services,” the FCC said in its order.
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