The FCC has sent the first checks from its Emergency Connectivity Fund, an effort to help close the “homework gap” in schools by covering the cost of computers and Internet services. Thousands of school districts, in every state plus D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico, will split this first $ 1.2 billion distribution, and there is much more to come.
The problem they seek to mitigate is the large number of students who, at a time when they study, homework and now even classes are all done online, lack a device or adequate Internet connection to participate. This exacerbates an existing inequality, as these students often lack access to other resources and end up falling behind through no fault of their own.
The ECF was conceived to combat this, and funded earlier this year as part of the large pandemic recovery bill. It’s a $ 7 billion program in total, but the money is being spread over time as schools and libraries make their formal requests, saying they need to cover the cost of so many tablets, or wireless access points, or broadband connections. The FCC appears to be collecting the bill as long as the request is reasonable and the paperwork is in order.
“From small rural libraries like the sesser Public Library in Sesser, Illinois, to large school districts like Baltimore City Public Schools, this first wave of funding will provide more than 3 million connected devices for remote learning and make a great dent in closing one of the cruelest parts of the digital divide, “FCC Acting President Jessica Rosenworcel said in the press release.
It is not evenly divided, but distributed according to the requests received. The largest state recipient is New York with $ 243 million ($ 192 million of which goes to New York), followed by Texas with $ 97 million and California with $ 71 million. Several states received much less (Wyoming and South Dakota each received less than $ 100,000), but this could easily be a matter of those districts simply choosing to obtain their documentation for the second disbursement of funds.
To that end, September 28 marks a new application period, for equipment and services used from last July to next June, although the FCC noted that it is still processing applications for the first batch, so if your district has not received a response about it, don’t worry. And if you haven’t applied yet, you better get started!