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Puerto Rico schools and libraries to get $5.3M to expand broadband

Several hundred Puerto Rico-based schools, municipalities and nonprofits will receive more than $5.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate funding program to boost broadband services.

The program is part of the Universal Service Fund, which has opened two funding windows so far this year.

During the first round, the agency received 361 funding requests from Puerto Rico-based entities, with a total committed amount of nearly $5.2 million.

During the second round, which is currently accepting applications, Puerto Rico-based entities have filed 29 funding requests with a committed amount of $371,188, according to data provided by the Universal Service Administration, an independent nonprofit that the FCC designated to manage the Universal Service Fund.

The list of local recipients blankets the island, as well as Vieques. Some notable applicants include the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico, dozens of municipal public electronic libraries, the Carlos Beltrán Baseball Academy, and the Sila M. Calderón Foundation Library, among many others.

The FCC announced the opening of the second E-Rate application window on Sept. 16, 2020, recognizing that schools across the United States and its territories are facing an increased demand for connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The enthusiastic response to this second opportunity to apply for funding speaks to the tremendous demand schools across the country are facing as teachers and students adapt to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. 

“I’m pleased funds are being distributed to help schools meet this demand all across America and that we can help more students connect with their schools during the pandemic,” he said.

During the second filing window, schools can purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address needs resulting from the increasing shift to 1:1 student-to-device ratios in classrooms, live streaming of classroom instruction to students at home, and expanding use of cloud-based educational tools and platforms — all of which can significantly increase on-campus bandwidth requirements. 

This filing window will close on Oct. 16, 2020, and additional funding commitments will be issued in coming weeks, the regulatory agency said.

Under the Communications Act, eligible schools may request universal service discounts for certain services, including connections necessary to support broadband connectivity to school “classrooms.”  

Consistent with the relief the FCC has previously provided to schools affected by natural disasters, the agency has adopted temporary rules to provide immediate relief to schools that participate in the E-Rate program as they continue to contend with the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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