The Federal Communications Commission will open applications June 29 for libraries and schools seeking to receive funds from its $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund.
The FCC is leaving only a 45-day window from June 29-August 13 for schools and libraries to apply, then submit requests for funding to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the 2021-22 school year. These funds come in an effort to bridge the “homework gap.” Before the pandemic, that referred to how students that lacked a computer or high-speed internet were unable to complete homework and fell behind in their studies. Now that school have become increasingly virtual, this digital divide is magnified, and not doing homework becomes missing school entirely.
“With classes themselves moving online and the pandemic requiring us to stay home, we went from having millions of children who couldn’t do online homework assignments to having millions of children who couldn’t do schoolwork at all,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC, in a statement. “In other words, the Homework Gap became a full-fledged learning and education gap.”
The program is available for schools and libraries, that qualify for support under the FCC’s E-Rate Program, along with Tribal libraries, or those that qualify for support under the Library Services and Technology Act.
The fund in extreme circumstances can even pay for the construction of new networks to provide remote learning and the equipment needed for datacasting services. In general, the fund is meant to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems (including air cards), routers, devices that combine a modem and router, and connected devices (laptop and tablet computers). The funds can also be used to buy commercial broadband service from companies like Comcast or Verizon for off-campus use by students, school staff or library patrons.
To stay connected to details, go to the fund’s webiste and signup for updates ahead applying for federal support when the application opens at the end of June.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.