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FCC Announces New Filing Window for School Connectivity Fund

Schools in need of Internet access and related equipment for virtual learning have another opportunity to receive money through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC announced this week.

Rural internet
Schools will be able to apply for additional funding for Internet connectivity needs from Sept. 28 to Oct. 13, according to a news release from the Federal Communications Commission.

The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which allocated $7.1 billion for school broadband through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, allows schools and libraries to purchase hot spots, routers and other devices needed for virtual learning.

So far, schools in all 50 states have applied for about $5 billion through the program’s first round of funding, which ended this month. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a public statement that the response from applicants highlighted an ongoing need for K-12 Internet access, despite billions in separate federal relief funds devoted to closing the digital divide during COVID-19.

“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,” she said. “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.”

John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition, said future support from the ECF remains crucial.

“Unfortunately, the initial filing window took place at a time when many schools and library staff were not in the office, which was particularly difficult for smaller institutions. This new opportunity will be invaluable for educators with limited resources and the people most in need,” he said in a public statement.