The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a Report and Order on May 10, 2021 establishing the rules and procedures for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program: a $7.17 billion program designed to provide relief to millions of students, school staff, and library patrons who lack the necessary Internet access and/or laptop or tablet computers they need to fully participate in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some important things to know about the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program:
What Is the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
- The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program is a $7.17 billion program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act to help schools and libraries support remote learning. The Program will provide funding to schools and libraries for the reasonable costs of eligible equipment and services that can be provided to students, teachers, and library patrons who lack connected devices such as laptop or tablet computers and/or lack broadband access during the pandemic.
- The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the program administrator.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Funds Through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
- Schools, libraries, and consortia of eligible 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, which are eligible for support under the Library Services and Technology Act, are also eligible for the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
- Schools and libraries eligible for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program do not need to be current E-Rate participants. Eligible entities that have not applied for E-Rate support should be prepared to demonstrate eligibility as a school or library under the Program rules during USAC’s application review.
What Equipment and Services Are Covered by the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program?
- The following types of equipment purchased for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack sufficient connectivity to engage in remote learning are eligible for support:
- Laptop and tablet computers
- Wi-Fi hotspots
- Modems (including air cards)
- Devices that combine a modem and router.
- Schools and libraries can also receive funding for commercially available broadband Internet service that provides a fixed or mobile broadband connection for off-campus use by students, school staff, or library patrons who would otherwise lack access to connectivity sufficient to engage in remote learning.
- In limited circumstances 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 and the equipment needed for datacasting services.
What Are the Reasonable Support Amounts for Eligible Equipment?
- The program will reimburse applicants a maximum of $400 for each laptop or tablet, and a maximum of $250 for Wi-Fi hotpots.
- Schools and libraries may buy more expensive laptops, tablets, or Wi-Fi-hotspots, but they can only be reimbursed up to $400/$250.
- For other eligible equipment and services, the FCC and USAC will review costs to ensure they are reasonable.
Can a Student Receive Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Support and Receive the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Support at the Same Time?
- No, the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program will not reimburse for equipment and/or services that are paid for by another federal pandemic relief program.
- A student could receive broadband access service through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and a connected device through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
How Can Schools or Libraries Apply?
- USAC will open an application filing window for the planned purchase of equipment and services, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, that are needed for students, school staff, and library patrons that would otherwise lack access to connected devices/and other broadband connections sufficient to engage in remote learning during the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.
How Soon Will USAC Open the First Window?
- USAC is already hard at work setting up the first application filing window. While there is no specific date for when the first application filing window will open, schools and libraries will receive advance notice of the opening date so that they will be ready to file their applications.
- The first application filing window will be open for 45 days.