FCC To Launch $7.17 Billion Connectivity Fund Program

New Program Provides Funding to Schools and Libraries Critical to Closing the Homework Gap

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted final rules to implement the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. This $7.17 billion program, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, will enable schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Far too often, students, teachers, and library patrons lack the access they need to broadband and connected devices. This need has become even more apparent during these unprecedented times,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting Chairwoman of the FCC. “Between this Emergency Connectivity Fund Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households. These investments will help more Americans access online education, healthcare, and employment resources. They will help close the Homework Gap for students nationwide and give so many more households the ability to connect, communicate, and more fully participate in modern life.”

The Report and Order adopted today establishes the rules and policies governing the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The new rules define eligible equipment and services, service locations, eligible uses, and reasonable support amounts for funding provided. It designates the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the program administrator with FCC oversight, and leverages the processes and structures used in the ERate program for the benefit of schools and libraries already familiar with the E-Rate program. It also adopts procedures to protect the limited funding from waste, fraud, and abuse.

Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 17 million children struggling without the broadband access they need for remote learning. The Acting Chairwoman has long made closing the Homework Gap a priority during her tenure at the Commission.

— Source: Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Top photo: GettyImages


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Mobile Boarding & Beyond: What Bus Companies Need to Focus on in 2021

CINCINNATI — Continued reopenings and successful vaccination campaigns will almost certainly lead to an increase in travel and tourism. While it may take some time to fully get back to pre-pandemic levels, bus and transit companies can benefit from this travel demand and bounce back from very difficult fiscal years.

From individuals taking short regional trips to visit family members they haven’t seen in a while, to tourists enjoying weekend trips, to college students heading home for a (hopefully) more normal holiday season later this year, there’s a lot of potential for bus companies to find customers in the coming months. And because the economy may take some time to recover, more cost-conscious consumers may prefer to take buses rather than more expensive options such as trains or planes. Still, bus companies need to provide a safe, pleasant experience for passengers in order to entice them back. 

What Bus Companies Must Focus on in 2021

Safely Increasing Capacity

As travel restrictions ease and customers become more comfortable being around other passengers, bus companies can start to increase the number of riders per trip. Still, safety measures like using masks and implementing enhanced cleaning practices will likely continue to be necessary for a while.

Bus companies should clearly state their health and safety practices so that customers can determine whether they’re comfortable getting on board. It would be a shame to lose customers who, for example, would take the bus if they knew there would be temperature checks and that they could open windows, but because that information isn’t publicized in advance, they choose to drive instead.

Increasing Payment & Boarding Efficiency 

That starts with reducing the need to line up at bus stations to purchase tickets. Many bus companies have already rolled out easy-to-use online payment systems, but if you haven’t yet, now could be a good time to do so. From there, passengers should easily be able to receive an e-ticket or some type of confirmation that can allow for fast boarding.

The less bus companies have to review paper tickets, the faster they can typically board the bus and avoid frustrating queues; when that happens in a location with multiple buses, sometimes customers don’t even know which line to get in.

Ideally, bus companies can even go beyond scanning e-tickets, which can still create logjams and require employees to physically get close to customers at a time that many still want to maintain social distance. Verification technologies like data-over-sound can allow for faster confirmations at a greater distance than when using QR codes providing the customer with an efficient & seamless mobile boarding solution. 

Improving Customer Experience 

In addition to providing a better experience regarding areas like cleanliness and boarding procedures, bus companies should also think about how they can elevate customer experience to win back those who might be considering other modes of transportation.

For example, providing more in-ride media options to compete with airplanes could be a benefit customers appreciate. Some bus companies also try to appeal to more of a luxury, business-class market, such as by offering more legroom than airplanes and food/beverages (which could be more practical post-pandemic).

Another approach to elevating customer experience and appeal to new customer segments could be to implement more sustainable practices. Some municipal bus operators use alternative clean energy sources, and commercial bus companies may increasingly have opportunities to upgrade to more environmentally friendly fleets in the coming years. Meanwhile, even small measures, like highlighting the environmental impact of using paperless tickets, could help provide a strong experience for customers.

What This Means for Your Mobility Company 

Implementing these types of measures can go a long way toward helping bus companies make up for the ridership drops experienced during the pandemic. Travel will likely see a strong surge, but to keep ridership up in the years to come, bus companies also need to think about how they can create these types of safe, sustainable, efficient experiences.

LISNR Co-Founder and BDPA Mission Partner Rodney Williams discusses data-over-sound technologies during a CES Smart City presentation.

In this new normal for mobility, contactless methods must operate at distances greater than what NFC or QR codes can provide. LISNR®, the most advanced ultrasonic platform, enables authentication across distances of centimeters to many meters. Plus, it’s secure, fast and easy-to-use for passengers.

LISNR®: The Most Advanced Ultrasonic Platform

Recently, BusUp, the #1 corporate bus commuter management platform in the E.U., integrated LISNR® to enable contactless mobile boarding pass authentication. As a result, the company aims to increase safety, efficiency and speed for its passengers through contactless ultrasonic technology. 

Learn More About Ultrasonic Technology by Calling LISNR® 

Want to see how your business can leverage data-over-sound technology to better serve customers in 2021? Get in touch with our team today. To learn more, give LISNR a call at 513-322-8400 or send them a message.

— Sources and photos: LISNR, #TeamLISNR, CTA, and bdpatoday


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