Schools, libraries turn to hot spots, routers, and devices for remote learning.
GUEST COLUMN | by John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning
In an exciting update, the Federal Communications Commission announced it received unprecedented demand for funding via the Emergency Connectivity Fund–and is opening a second window as a result.
Available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) enables schools and libraries to purchase hot spots, routers and other devices needed to support remote learning–and response has been strong and consistent.
‘The need for connectivity isn’t going away–we can use the ECF to demonstrate just how dire these resources are.’
This funding package is a big step in the right direction to providing equitable connections to all students this school year. Read on for trends we saw during the initial ECF filing period–as well as expectations and tips for the second window.
Three trends we saw during the first ECF filing window
The response from schools and libraries across the country to the first Emergency Connectivity Fund filing window was strong and consistent. Through these funds, millions of students and families will benefit from off-campus Wi-Fi connections, allowing them to fully participate in their schoolwork.
Here are three key trends that resulted from the initial ECF application period:
- Trend #1: Demand for ECF funding remains strong. During the first ECF filing window, the FCC received requests totaling $5.137 billion. This amount is higher than most estimates–indicating just how dire this funding is. School and library systems are using these relief dollars to fund 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections.
- Trend #2: School systems across the U.S. are participating. California, New York, Texas, Florida and New Jersey requested the most funding during the initial ECF window.
- California: $812.0 million; New York: $559.7 million; Texas: $496.5 million; Florida: $264.4 million; New Jersey: $225.3 million
- Trend #3: ECF and FY2021 E-rate requests ring true. While the amount of funds requested via ECF is higher, application trends by state and territory are similar to what we saw during the FY2021 E-rate request period.
Second ECF filing period provides a critical opportunity
It’s heartening that the FCC has announced a second ECF filing period–this ensures that more districts and libraries will have time to assess their needs for the 2021-2022 school year, ultimately helping close the homework gap in their communities.
Jessica Rosenworcel, acting Chairwoman of the FCC, explains the long-term goal of ECF:
“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.”
So, it should come as no surprise that the ECF is being viewed by many as a test run. If demand for this funding is sustained, there’s a chance that it could be made permanently available. School and library leaders have worked diligently to ensure teachers, students and other stakeholders are able to connect remotely and digitally. The need for connectivity isn’t going away–we can use the ECF to demonstrate just how dire these resources are.
Tips for the second ECF filing window
The second ECF filing window opens on September 28 and closes on October 13–giving applicants just fifteen days to submit their requests. With this quick turnaround in mind, Funds For Learning has prepared the following ECF application tips:
- Review the list of eligible items prior to submitting your application.
- Have vendor documentation–such as an invoice or quote–to support items requested on the ECF application.
- If a device or service on an application exceeds the “reasonable cost” set by USAC, applicants will be asked to provide their rationale through a submitted explanation.
- An active Sam.gov account is required for the reimbursement process–registration status can be checked at https://sam.gov/content/status-tracker.
For information and resources regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund, visit https://www.fundsforlearning.com/ecf/
John Harrington is the CEO of Funds For Learning. Follow @JDHarrington.