The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program is a $7.17 billion program that will help schools and libraries close the Homework Gap by providing funding for the reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. In limited instances where a school or library can demonstrate that there are no available service options sufficient to support remote learning, the schools and libraries may seek funding through the Program for the construction of new networks to provide remote learning and the equipment needed for datacasting services.
Congress authorized funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. In compliance with the Act and after receiving input from a wide variety of stakeholders, on May 10, 2021, the FCC adopted a Report and Order, establishing the rules and policies for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
Who is Eligible to Receive Funds Through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
Schools, libraries, and consortia of schools and libraries that are eligible for support under the FCC’s E-Rate Program are eligible to request and receive support through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. In addition, the order clarifies that Tribal libraries eligible for support under the Library Services and Technology Act are also eligible for the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
What Equipment and Services are Covered by the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
Eligible equipment includes Wi-Fi hotspots, modems (including air cards), routers, devices that combine a modem and router, and connected devices (laptop and tablet computers). Schools and libraries can also receive funding for commercially available broadband service that provides a fixed or mobile broadband connection for off-campus use by students, school staff or library patrons. In limited instances where a school or library can demonstrate that there are no available service options sufficient to support remote learning for its students, school staff, or library patrons, the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program may support the construction of new networks or the equipment needed for datacasting services.
How Can Schools or Libraries Apply for Funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the administrator of the Program and will be responsible for receiving and reviewing Emergency Connectivity Fund Program funding applications. Tens of thousands of schools and libraries across the country already work with USAC to meet their on-campus broadband connectivity needs through the E-Rate Program.
While we are not yet ready to announce the dates for the first application filing window, the FCC and USAC will provide advance notice of the opening so that eligible schools, libraries and consortia can be ready to file their applications.
What More Should Applicants Know about the First Application Window?
The first application filing window will be open for 45 days, during which applicants will be able to submit requests for funding for purchases made between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 to meet the needs of students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to basic educational opportunities and library services.
Will There Be Future Funding Windows?
If demand during this first application filing window does not exceed available funds, the Commission will open a second application filing window to allow schools and libraries to seek funding for eligible equipment and services they previously purchased. If, however, demand for prospective support in the first window appears to be far short of meeting current needs, the Commission may consider opening a second prospective application filing window before opening an application filing window to fund previously purchased eligible equipment and services.
Review additional Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
USAC is also the administrator of the four federal Universal Service Fund Programs, including the E-Rate Program, as well as the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides temporary support for broadband services and certain devices to help low-income households stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.