Alan Weissberger Broadband Regulatory

FCC Allocates $603M in Additional Emergency Connectivity Funding

Kids learning remotely in a library. Image courtesy of the FCC.
Image courtesy of the FCC.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dispatched almost $603 million in the sixth wave of awards under its $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program.  That program helps schools and libraries link to broadband with the grants extending to 1.4 million students in 50 states. Funding for broadband projects is also coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which awarded $119 million in grants and loans to small telecom operators in 19 states.

The latest commitment will support 1,651 schools, 85 libraries, and 14 consortia. These commitments cover nearly 1.2 million connected devices and more than 790,000 broadband connections.

Sierra Telephone Company secured the largest of the telecom loans, bagging $40.2 million for work in California. The second-largest ($17.2 million) went to the Ponderosa Telephone Company, again for a project in California. Loans were also handed out for work in New Mexico and Indiana.

To date, the program has made commitments to more than 9,000 schools, 760 libraries, and 100 consortia for almost 8.3 million connected devices and more than 4.4 million broadband connections.

According to FCC data on the program, the cumulative funding on a per-state basis so far has ranged from around $470 million in California, $431 million in New York, and more than $385 million in Texas, to around $33,000 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nine states had applications granted, providing more than $100 million in funding, while schools and libraries across another 36 states are receiving between $10 million and $100 million.

As students and educators around the country enjoy time with their families before tackling the second half of the school year, the FCC continues to provide support to ensure they have the connectivity they need when they return,” FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a press release about the Emergency Connectivity Fund awards. “Today’s announcement will help an additional million children get the internet access and technology needed for success in today’s virtual and hybrid classrooms.”

Adults learning via online technology. Images courtesy of the FCC.
Image courtesy of the FCC.

“When we invest in rural infrastructure, we invest in the livelihoods and health of people in rural America,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “The investments we are announcing today will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come.”

When the Emergency Connectivity Fund program was announced in May, Ms. Rosenworcel said it is the “largest single effort in the nation’s history to make sure students have access to broadband and devices they need for school.”

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

3 replies on “FCC Allocates $603M in Additional Emergency Connectivity Funding”

Thanks Alan for writing this summary. That’s a fascinating statement about the union jobs. I don’t have exact statistics, but in my experience, many of the smaller telecom providers and their contractors that serve rural areas are non-union.

It will be interesting to see how much goes to new deployments versus reimbursements for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford broadband.

“The fund will reimburse reasonable costs of eligible equipment such as Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, devices that combine a modem and router, connected devices, and eligible broadband connections.”

Thanks for your kind words, Ken. I’d love to see this and other programs expand to provide broadband internet access to the unserved, underserved, and those who can not afford $50/month or more for broadband access.

There is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which is a follow-up to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). It provides a subsidy for people of certain income levels to obtain broadband. The funds follow the person, not the provider. Brian Hurley, VP of Regulatory Affairs for ACA Connects, provides background on the EBBP in this ViodiTV interview:
Details will be finalized on 12/31/21 as to how funds from the $14.2B ACP will be distributed.

From the FCC’s consumer ACP website;

The benefit will provide a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

A household must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines;
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
  • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program”
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