On November 8, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the commitment of $421 million in grants under the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. The $7.17 billion program, which aims to support learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, is administered by schools and libraries. This recent round of funding brings total program commitments to over $3.05 billion.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 authorized funding for schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers and expand broadband access. The latest round of grants supports off-campus education, including nightly homework and virtual learning. The state-by-state breakdown and list of schools and libraries receiving funding can be found here.
Although our role in local public schools is different across the nation, all counties share a tax base with local school boards and provide complementary services to local students. Counties also play an active role in supporting and funding K-12 schools in five states including Alaska, Md., N.C., Va., and Tenn., and support more than 1,000 libraries across the nation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the digital divide impacting counties across the nation, with rural and low-income students, in particular, facing barriers to remote learning. While many county governments have used local funds to provide devices, hotspots, and other resources to ensure continuity in learning, the ECF will serve as an important resource as we work with our federal partners to implement long-term solutions that address the digital divide. NACo will continue to monitor federal actions related to access to broadband connectivity.
Update: On November 23, the FCC announced $169 million in additional funding, which brings total commitments to over $3.2 billion. For more information about the grantees, please click here.
- NACo Blog: FCC awards first round of Emergency Connectivity Fund grants
- NACo Blog: FCC announces new resources and funding opportunities aimed at closing the homework gap during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Broadband Task Force: High-Speed Internet Is Essential For All Counties
- American Rescue Plan Act Funding Breakdown