FCC announces second round of ERate funding for on-campus connectivity

The Federal Communications Commission has announced an additional round of ERate funding to assist schools with on-campus internet connectivity needs. Applications are due by October 16. 

The ERate program is funded by the Universal Service fee on phone bills. The program allows schools and libraries to receive a discount for high-speed broadband internet service. The 2020 funding cycle closed in April, but the FCC said need dictated the new round that closes in October.  

“Across the country, students have started a new school year where connectivity is proving to be more critical than ever before, and many schools require additional bandwidth to meet the increased demand,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.  “Providing a new E-Rate funding application window will help schools meet this demand and is another important step in our efforts to support our nation’s students and teachers.”   

The new funding round is restricted to school and classroom use and may not be used to help students who do not have reliable home broadband internet service. 

KASB, the National School Boards Association and other advocacy groups have repeatedly asked Congress and the FCC to add at least $4 billion to the ERate program to close the “homework gap” between students who have home broadband and those who don’t. The Kansas State Department of Education recently surveyed the state’s school districts and estimated 48,000 students – roughly 10 percent of students statewide – do not have home internet access. A June study by Common Sense Media pegged the number at more than 150,000 students.   

Congress has not yet acted on additional broadband funding for students. FCC Chairman Pai, a native of Parsons, Kansas, has said ERate is restricted to classroom use only and cannot be used for home access.  

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