Friday, September 3, 2021

FCC Opening Second Window for Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC has announced that a second application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund will open on September 28 and close on October 13.  Emergency Connectivity Funds are available to schools and libraries who want to purchase laptops, tablets, WiFi hotspots,  modems, routers and broadband connections for off-campus use by students and staff. 

The first application window received funding requests totaling $5.1 billion. About $7.17 billion was appropriated for the fund by Congress. 

See the full FCC announcement here




Thursday, July 29, 2021

FCC Releases One-Page Guide on Applying for Emergency Connectivity Funds

The FCC has released a helpful one-page guide that gives you all of the information you need to know in order to apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund program, which was created by federal stimulus legislation to help schools and libraries purchase educational technology! The deadline to apply for these funds is August 13, 2021. 

View the guide here: https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/ecf_how_to_apply_overview_guide.pdf




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Emergency Connectivity Fund Application Window Closing in 24 Days!

WEMTA is strongly encouraging all of our members to consider applying for Emergency Connectivity Funds available through the federal stimulus bill.  These funds are specifically meant to help schools and libraries support the remote learning needs for students and staff. Devices purchased through the program can be used off-campus! Schools have until August 13, 2021 to submit applications. 

How Much Funding is Available: $7.17 billion 

Who Can Apply: Schools, libraries, and consortia of schools and libraries that are eligible for support under the FCC's E-Rate program.

Eligible Purchases: Laptops and tablets; Wi-Fi hotspots; Modems; Routers; Devices that Combine Modems and Routers. 

Timeframe from Purchases: This round of funding covers eligible purchases made between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.

Application Deadline: August 13, 2021 

Where to Apply: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/ 

Learn more: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund-faqs 




Thursday, July 8, 2021

Governor Evers Signs Budget Bill into Law

 The following items of interest to WEMTA are included in the budget bill:

Governor Evers signed the 2021-23 state budget bill into law on Thursday, July 8, 2021. He made 50 partial vetoes to the bill as passed by the Legislature before signing it. Most significantly, Governor Evers vetoed a proposed $550 million lapse from the general fund to the budget stabilization fund and called on the Legislature to work with him to instead use these funds to address immediate needs of Wisconsinites. He also announced that he will be investing more than $100 million in federal stimulus into K-12 schools. 

You can see the Governor's full veto message here. 

The following items of interest to WEMTA are included in the budget as signed into law. 

WISELearn: Reduce funding for WISELearn by $150,000 in 2021-22 and by $200,000 in 2022-23. 

Library Service Contracts: Increase funding for the library service contracts by $12,900 in 2021-22 and by $25,300 in 2022-23 to fully fund the costs of the contracts. The following organizations receive library service contracts: the Milwaukee Public Library; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library; and the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

Public Library System Aid: Increase public library system aid by $2.5 million in 2021-22 and by $4 million in 2022-23. 

Wisconsin Reading Corps:  Increase funding for Wisconsin Reading Corps by $300,000 in 2021-22 and by an additional $1.3 million in 2022-23.




Thursday, July 1, 2021

Governor's Task Force on Broadband Releases Final Report

The Governor's Task Force on Broadband Access released its final report this week. WEMTA Legislative Chair Emily Dittmar was a member of the Task Force. Thank you, Emily, for your service! 

"All Wisconsinites should have broadband sufficient to successfully participate in society, including but not limited to, health, economic, and educational opportunities," states the Task Force. 

According to the FCC, about 394,000 Wisconsinites currently lack access to broadband meeting the minimum speed goals of 25/3 Mbps. These estimates are likely underreported due to weaknesses in the current FCC mapping process. A study performed by BroadbandNow estimates that 670,592 Wisconsinites lack access to 25/3 broadband speeds. It is further estimated that about 10% of Wisconsin households do not have any type of computer (desktop, laptop, tablet, e-reader) in the home, and over 500,000 households do not have a desktop or laptop computer.  

The report makes the following recommendations.

Speed Goals and Timelines

  • By 2025, all homes and businesses have access to broadband speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, and 50% have access to download speeds of 1 Gbps. Currently, only 17.7% of Wisconsin has access to 1 Gbps service speed.
  • By 2028, all homes and business have access to broadband speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. 
  • By 2031, all homes and businesses have access to broadband speeds of 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload, and 90% have access to downloads speeds of 1 Gbps.

Top Policy Recommendations, include:

  • Increasing public-private partnerships that make use of public infrastructure to reach underserved areas by private providers. The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) Trust Fund Loan program is mentioned as an example of public funding for broadband infrastructure. 
  • Increase Broadband Expansion Grant funding. A sub-recommendation lists continuing TEACH IT Funding.
  • Collect internet access data from providers at the granular home and business level.
  • Increase broadband consumer protections and price transparency.

  • Establish a State Internet Assistance Program to address the issue of affordability. Currently, only 44% of Wisconsin residents have access to internet service at less than $60 per month. 
  • Establish a statewide Digital Equity Fund run by a nonprofit to strengthen digital inclusion activities. 
  • Create a statewide Digital Navigator to assist under-connected people in solving a wide-range of adoption issues. 
  • Establish and support a coalition of willing, engaged broadband leaders to connect communities with providers, local and regional partners, planning and technical assistance opportunities, funding opportunities, and resources. 
  • Create planning and implementation grants for regions and communities. 

More detailed recommendations can be found starting on page 23 of the report. 



Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Legislature Sends Budget Bill to Governor

Both houses of the Legislature passed the budget bill this week. It now heads to Governor Evers' desk. The Governor can sign the bill as is, make partial vetoes or veto it in its entirety. 

The following items of interest to WEMTA are included in the budget bill:

WISELearn: Reduce funding for WISELearn by $150,000 in 2021-22 and by $200,000 in 2022-23. 

Library Service Contracts: Increase funding for the library service contracts by $12,900 in 2021-22 and by $25,300 in 2022-23 to fully fund the costs of the contracts. The following organizations receive library service contracts: the Milwaukee Public Library; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library; and the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

Public Library System Aid: Increase public library system aid by $2.5 million in 2021-22 and by $4 million in 2022-23. 

Wisconsin Reading Corps:  Increase funding for Wisconsin Reading Corps by $300,000 in 2021-22 and by an additional $1.3 million in 2022-23.




Monday, June 28, 2021

Application Window Opens June 29 for Emergency E-Rate Funds!

The FCC has announced that the window to apply for the first round of federal emergency e-rate funding opens on June 29 at 9 a.m. and closes on August 13 at 11:59 p.m.

Funds provided by the Emergency Connectivity Fund will help schools and libraries purchase: laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity. These devices can be used off-campus by students and staff!

During this initial application filing window, eligible schools and libraries may submit requests for funding for eligible equipment and services purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.

Learn more about the application process here: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/application-process/