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.”
“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.”