As the new school year gets underway, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has received requests for $5.137 billion to fund 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections as part of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. As a result of demand, the FCC said it was opening a second filing window for funding requests.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities. This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release.

“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 said. “The need is there, and the opening of a second application window reflects that.”

The $5.1 billion of reported requests were part of the first filing window, which closed on August 13 and came from schools and libraries across all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The FCC further noted that requests came from both rural and urban communities looking to purchase eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.

The decision to open a second filing window was driven by both the high demand for funding, as well as the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

During the second window, which will run from September 28 to October 13, schools and libraries will be able to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.

The funding can be used to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need. The funding is also available to support off-campus learning, such as homework, even if schools have returned to full-time in-person instruction, the FCC said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs