FCC dangles $1B in third Emergency Connectivity Fund round

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already awarded more than $4.6 billion from the $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), but plans to dish out at least another $1 billion in its third – and likely final – funding round.

Established in March 2021, the ECF offers support to schools and libraries to help them buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and commercial broadband service for students, staff and patrons. An initial application window for the program opened in June. This elicited an overwhelming response – with funding requests totaling $5.14 billion – and prompted the FCC to open a second filing window in September.

The agency said in a press release it now plans to open a third application window from April 28 to May 13, which will allow eligible entities to apply for funding that can be used to make covered purchases made between July 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023. The FCC indicated this will likely be the program’s final filing round before its available funding is exhausted.

Thus far, the FCC has received funding requests totaling $6.4 billion and committed more than $4.6 billion to help connect more than 12.5 million students. Support has gone toward the purchase of more than 10 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections, the FCC said.

Funding has been unleashed in 12 waves to date, with the latest batch of nearly $68 million covering 140 schools and 25 libraries. Approximately $49 million of that total was awarded to entities which participated in the first application window, with the remaining $19 million to participants in the second round.

On a state-by-state basis, California requested the largest amount of funding with a total of $922.5 million. New York and Texas followed close behind, seeking $754.9 million and $636.1 million, respectively. Florida and New Jersey rounded out the top five, asking for $310.6 million and $264.4 million, respectively.