Maryland schools and libraries receive more than $19 million to keep students, staff, and patrons connected during the COVID-19 health emergency.
The Federal Communications Commission is committing over $1.2 billion for 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia as part of the first round of funding from the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the ECF, established as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), reimburses schools and libraries for eligible equipment and broadband connections to help students, staff, and patrons without access to remote learning.
This first wave of funding commitments will provide students, school staff, and library patrons in all 50 states and Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia access to the devices and broadband connectivity they need to support their off-campus education needs.
According to an FCC press release:
“This first round of funding in the Emergency Connectivity Fund will help thousands of schools and libraries across the country provide critical online resources to their students, staff and library patrons,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “From small rural libraries like the Sesser Public Library in Sesser, Illinois, to large school districts like Baltimore City Public Schools, this first wave of funding will provide more than 3 million connected devices for remote learning and will make a major dent in closing one of the cruelest parts of the digital divide.
“Closing the Homework Gap means that all students can be connected to their schools and teachers—and now the FCC has new tools to help do just that. The enthusiastic response to this program highlights just how much help is needed, and we look forward to providing additional support through our second application window that opens on September 28. Together with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in getting students and households online.”
FCC “Back to School” Campaign Promotes Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
The FCC’s “Back to School” campaign aims to promote uptake of the EBB program among eligible households. New materials include school posters, bookmarks, handouts, and Pell Grant / school lunch / breakfast program-specific flyers.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the EBB provides a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. In addition, 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.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Outreach Toolkit includes new social media post templates and graphics for counties and school systems to promote the program.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the General Assembly this year passed SB 824 / HB 1328 – Economic Development – Broadband Providers – Joint Trenching and Fee (Building Out Broadband Act of 2021), a MACo Legislative Initiative to help close the digital divide by enhancing incentives and orchestrating opportunities for broadband deployment across the state.