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FCC approves $7B broadband connectivity fund

The funding will help schools and libraries pay for devices and broadband services.

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Schools and libraries can access the $7 billion to help pay for an internet connection for students and teachers.

Robert Rodriguez/CNET
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The US Federal Communications Commission on Monday unanimously approved the final rules to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The FCC program will provide funding for schools and libraries across the country to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students and teachers to access the internet for online learning during the pandemic.

The program is part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. 

It also follows the FCC approving a plan in February to administer $3.2 billion in emergency relief to subsidize broadband for millions of Americans during the pandemic. That program will provide $50 per month to low-income households and $75 per month to households on Native American lands to cover the cost of broadband services starting May 12. It also provides $100 toward buying a laptop or tablet.

Read also: The FCC is offering a $50 monthly internet discount. Here's who's eligible

"Between this Emergency Connectivity Fund Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households," Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC, said in a statement Monday. "These investments will help more Americans access online education, healthcare and employment resources. They will help close the homework gap for students nationwide."

According to the FCC, there may be 17 million children across the US who don't have access to the broadband needed for remote learning. Those children are "disproportionately from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas," the congresspeople behind the legislation -- Sens. Edward J. Markey, Maria Cantwell, Chris Van Hollen, Michael Bennet, Maggie Hassan and Congresswoman Grace Meng -- said.

"FCC implementation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program is an important step towards ensuring the 'homework gap' does not grow into a more damaging learning and opportunity gap for our children, particularly those who live in communities of color, low-income households and rural areas," Sen. Markey said in a statement Monday evening.