Educators’ requests for ECF dollars topped $2.8 billion last application window, far exceeding available funds

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington (December 14, 2022) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to include $1 billion in the disaster supplemental division of the year-end omnibus for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which funds devices and broadband services for students and educators to connect to the internet at home. This funding would be sufficient for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  to fund every valid application it received in the most recent application window. In May, the FCC announced that it had received more than $2.8 billion in requests for ECF funds in the most recent application window – far more than the estimated $1.5 billion in remaining funds.

“Without congressional action, we may stumble over this digital cliff with devastating consequences,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Congressional leadership. “Kids who relied on ECF-provided laptops and hotspots to complete their homework could suddenly find themselves in the dark, returned to pre-ECF years when they struggled to keep up with their connected classmates. Teachers who counted on the ECF program to allow them to draft lesson plans and connect to students and their parents at home will lose these crucial resources.

“This impact will fall hardest on the low-income, disadvantaged, and rural communities that relied most heavily on the ECF.  The end of the Emergency Connectivity Fund will effectively turn an important investment in our students into stranded assets and a wasted opportunity. […] To avoid this damaging outcome, we urge you to support an additional $1 billion in funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the disaster supplemental division in the fiscal 2023 omnibus. We cannot let millions of students fall back into the digital divide.”

In June, Senator Markey and Congresswoman Meng were joined by their colleague Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in leading 76 of their colleagues in a letter urging leadership to support their continued efforts to provide funding for the ECF. In July 2021, the three lawmakers also introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act, which would provide an additional $8 billion a year over five years to the ECF.