BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant

On July 28, 2020, Lt. Governor Jon Husted shared the state’s plan to expand broadband services in Ohio. The Lt. Governor announced that the state will set aside $50 million of state funding through the federal CARES Act to provide hotspots and internet-enabled devices to students for purchases made between July 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. Federal legislation has extended the grant opportunity through November 22, 2021.

The Ohio Department of Education, in collaboration with BroadbandOhio, provided Ohio schools and Education Service Centers with the opportunity to apply for these funds through a grant application process. The grant application portal was open from  August 10 through August 21. Grants were reviewed and awardees were notified on September 2. Frequently Asked Questions and a list of awardees can be found below.

To complete the award acceptance process, awardees must submit a pdf version of their original application, an updated plan if applicable, signed assurances, a budget page, and available supporting documentation to the Department through the CCIP.

Eligible groups:
Applicants identified the eligible group(s) they intend to assist with the purchase of the technology. Those groups include:

  • Economically disadvantaged students, as defined for EMIS reporting, including, students on free lunch;
  • Vulnerable children and youth as defined by the Ohio Department of Education;
  • Students who might have chronic conditions; and
  • Students who do not have other access to the internet.

Eligible expenses:
Devices and services that provide connectivity such as:

  • Home internet paid for by the district for students;
  • Hotspots/Mifis with a service plan;
  • Mobile hotspots (including on buses);
  • Public Wifi infrastructure; and
  • Other technology that provides a connection for the student.

Ineligible expenses:

  • Laptops and Chromebooks that can only access the internet through Wifi or a wired connection;
  • Hardware that does not contribute towards an internet connection;
  • Devices that do not primarily allow a child to have access to the internet; and
  • Cellphones unless repurposed to only function as a hotspot.

The BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant is linked to RemotEDx, a new $15 million suite of remote education supports for schools funded by the Ohio Department of Education CARES Act state activity funds. A component of RemotEDx includes the deployment of Connectivity Champions, who are singularly focused on helping schools remove barriers to internet connectivity and coordinate connections to state-level resources. Connectivity Champions will be deployed through Information Technology Centers, in partnership with the Management Council and the Ohio Department of Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: If the technology that I want to purchase is ineligible for this grant, does it mean it is ineligible for use with my own CARES act dollars?

A: The grant program is separate and distinct from your CARES act allocation as a school/district.  Check with your treasurer or on the federal FAQs, which can be found here here, to determine whether the use is eligible for CARES act funding.

Q2: Can I buy LTE devices but not have a plan associated with it?

A: Yes. Data plans are no longer required for purchasing LTE enabled devices.

Q3: Is there a required school/district match?

A: No

Q4: Can we charge indirect costs to the grant?

Answer: No. Due to the purpose of this grant, funds may be used only for the purchase of equipment and services directly related to student connectivity to the Internet.

Q5: Can we make a pre-pay purchase of cell service that would extend beyond December 30 using these funds?

A: Broadband Ohio Connectivity grant funds may be used to pay for cell service ONLY through December 30, 2020. Monthly fees for service beyond December 30, 2020 must be paid using other funding sources.  Update: Federal legislation has extended the grant opportunity through November 22, 2021.

The full cost of equipment that is received before December 30 is eligible for full reimbursement.  If you are entering a contract for a year of service, you will need to determine the monthly cost of that service in order to determine how much to request through the grant. Grant funds may be used only for the service periods through December 30, 2020.    For example, the grant can cover the complete cost of a take-home hotspot and any activation fees.  On the service side, if the service period is for a year or more, the school district will need to determine the monthly cost over the term of the contract, and can be reimbursed for the services purchased between July 1 and December 30 of 2020.

Update: Federal legislation has extended the grant opportunity through November 22, 2021.

Q6: How long do I have to spend the awarded funds?

A: All expenses must be incurred, and all purchases must be in hand and usable by December 30, 2020. Backordered items must have an expected delivery date prior to December 30, 2020. Additional guidance can be found here.

Update: Federal legislation has extended the grant opportunity through November 22, 2021.

Q7: Can the funds be used to purchase connectivity devices for teachers or other staff?

A: No. This grant is focused on keeping students connected, and so the technology purchases must be usable by students. We recognize that public wifi, both fixed and mobile, can be used by staff as well, but take-home solutions, including enterprise purchasing for in-home internet and hotspots, is limited to providing that technology to students. That does not prohibit a school/district from using CARES act dollars of its own to provide technology to its teachers and staff. See question 1.

Q8: Can a school/district use funds to increase its WAN?

A: Only insofar as the increase allows the school/district to provide public wifi, or to accommodate increased backhaul necessary for hotspots or similar student remote connections. The school/district cannot use the funds to increase connectivity inside the buildings or between buildings for the purpose of providing greater connectivity in the schools themselves. However, school/districts can use the money to increase bandwidth necessary to broadcast a public wifi signal to a parking lot or other public location or to accommodate increased backhaul from hotspots or similar student remote connections.

Q9: Can I use the money to purchase laptops or Chromebooks and then purchase hotspots to connect them?

A: No. The funds from the grant are only available to purchase connectivity solutions for students. If the laptops and Chromebooks are unable to go online without additional hardware, they are ineligible for the grant. That does not preclude a school/district from using its own CARES dollars to make the purchase. See the answer to question 1.

Q10: What happens if I request something in the “other” category that is ineligible?

A: If one or more items that are listed in the application is deemed to be ineligible, the amount associated with the ineligible item(s) will not be considered when calculating the final award.

Q11: Can I appeal a decision regarding an ineligible purchase request?

A: No. Due to the nature of this grant, and the desire to get the funds into the hands of schools/districts as quickly as possible, the decision of the review team will be final. Applicants may be contacted during the review process for more information if needed.

Q12: Am I guaranteed to get the amount that I request?
A: If the total amount of eligible requests exceeds the maximum amount of available funding, the awards made to applicants will be pro-rated across all approved applications on a regional basis.
Q13: How will I be notified of award and receive the funds if awarded?
A: Funds will be allocated through the CCIP. All grant applications will be reviewed following the application deadline. After grant calculations are completed, allocations will be loaded into the CCIP. Each subgrantee will be required to submit a budget and upload the PDF version of the application completed in the Ohio K12 Help Application Portal into the CCIP. They will be reviewed for consistency prior to being approved in the CCIP. The normal process for submitting PCRs to draw down funds will be in effect.
Q14: What is the CCIP and how do I get access?
A: The CCIP is the Ohio Department of Education’s grants management system. It is used to collect budget and application information and to request funds disbursement. It is accessed through the OH|ID portal. General information can be found here. We will provide additional information and support for awarded organizations that are unfamiliar with accessing and using the CCIP.
Q15: What reporting will be required for this subgrant?

A: Following the December 30, 2020 grant expiration, each subgrantee will be required to provide an update to their original grant application in the Ohio K12 Help Application Portal to indicate the actual use of the awarded funds. This will include the items purchased, the quantity purchased, and all available usage data associated with the purchased devices or service. Awardees will be notified of the deadline to submit this information.

Update: Federal legislation has extended the grant opportunity through November 22, 2021.

Q16: Where can I find vendor information to help estimate the cost?
A: The Department of Administrative Services has a transparent price list that includes pricing that is specific to K-12 education. It can be found here. The vendor spreadsheet and individual vendor information can be found in the “Alerts” section of the posting.
Q17: Can I be reimbursed for something I have already purchased?

A: Qualifying purchases made on or after July 1, 2020 may be reimbursed using these grant funds.

Q18: Are these grants available to preschools?

Answer: No. These grant funds are being made available to support kindergarten through grade 12 only.

Q19: Can I buy any equipment listed in the DAS equipment RFI list using this grant?

A:  No. The list is made available to schools to assist in their overall use of CARES Act funding. This grant is limited to use for connectivity solutions. Therefore, equipment (Chromebooks, laptops, etc) that do not include cellular capability are not eligible for this grant.  

Q20: How will I request funds after awards are made?

A: Funds will be disbursed through the CCIP. This grant is a reimbursement grant, and funds are drawn by submitting a Project Cash Request (PCR). All PCRs must be accompanied by a receipt, PO, or other proof of payment for the equipment/services for which grant funds are requested.

Q21: Can I purchase hotspot extenders with grant funds?

Hotspot extenders (signal boosters) do not connect directly to the internet so are not eligible purchases under the BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant.

Q22: Can I reimburse families for the cost of their internet connection?

A: No. Districts cannot reimburse families for the cost of their internet connection.  Districts must pay the vendor directly for internet connectivity.

Q23: Can I use the grant to run fiber to a location outside of the building??

A: Yes, if it is to provide public wi-fi.  However, it needs to provide public wi-fi to a location that is accessible to the public, such as a parking lot.  It cannot provide public wi-fi to an area inaccessible to the public, such as to another building that is locked or cannot be easily accessed to be able to get online.

Q24: Can I use the funds to purchase wi-fi repeaters and internet boosters?

A: No.  These are typically add on items for a home that allows the home to have wi-fi coverage over a larger area, but is not necessary to provide internet to the home.

Q25: Can I use the grant to purchase Chromebooks or laptops?

A: If the device is only able to connect to the internet through a wi-fi connection or a wired ethernet connection, it is ineligible. To be eligible, a laptop or Chromebook must be able to connect to the internet out of the box through a cellular connection.

BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant Awards

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