School districts still interested in installing Wi-Fi hotpots on school buses have another chance, perhaps their last, to obtain federal grant funding.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is opening a third application filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support. The application period will open on April 28 and close two weeks later on May 13.
The third window will support eligible equipment and services purchased between July 1 this year and Dec. 31, 2023. The FCC stated via a press release that given past demand, the third application filing window will likely be the last opportunity for schools and libraries to request funding before the remaining funds run out.
Since its launch last June, the program has connected over 12.5 million students with broadband connections and equipment, the FCC stated.
The first filing window was open for 45-days and attracted applications from rural and urban communities in all 50 states and American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The second round opened on Sept. 28 and ran through Oct. 13.
As School Transportation News previously reported, the ECF money can be used to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots for school buses and bookmobiles. According to a survey of readers sent by STN this month, 35 percent of 106 transportation directors and supervisors at this writing stated that Wi-Fi equipped school buses remain a priority in their school districts.
Related: FCC Announces Round Two of Funding for School Bus Wi-Fi
Related: FCC Approves School Bus Wi-Fi Hotspots Under COVID-19 Emergency Connectivity Fund
Related: U.S. Senate Bill Seeks Expanded School Bus Wi-Fi
Michael Flood, the senior vice president and general manager of education at Kajeet, added that he has noticed continued high interest for Wi-Fi hotspots. “But more to provide Wi-Fi for bus riders, not as much for parking the buses,” he added, noting that Kajeet is aware of entities that are preparing to apply for the next round of funds, but the company could not disclose further details at this time.
Flood added that Kajeet is providing specific support and training to school districts, leadership and transportation directors who are planning on using ECF. The company said it will be hosting a webinar to assist with ECF in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, Flood told STN that most previous ECF applicants have until June of next year to spend awarded funds that were awarded for the purpose of their original application.