On April 30, 2021, the FCC released to the public a draft Report and Order that, if adopted, would establish the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program would reimburse schools and libraries for the purchase, during the COVID-19 pandemic, of laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots and other eligible equipment as well as broadband connections for students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to connected devices and broadband service during this unprecedented time.
Specifically for individuals with disabilities, the Order states:
- Connected devices are expected to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities in order to comply with existing accessibility rules;
- Should people with disabilities require certain devices to connect to the Internet, the schools and libraries are expected to request such devices to accommodate disabilities if needed;
- Applicants may request a waiver of the reasonable maximum support amount of $400 for laptops and tablets, if the reasonable cost to purchase devices for students, school staff, or library patrons with disabilities is higher than $400 and the public interest warrants a deviation from the general rule.
In light of the approaching statutory deadline, modifications have been made to the ex parte rules for this proceeding. The public may make ex parte presentations through Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Summaries of any oral ex parte presentations made on May 4-5, 2021, must be filed no later than 2:00 p.m. EDT on May 6, 2021. For more information on this process, please see the Public Notice below.
Links to the News Release:
Links to the Ex Parte Modifications Public Notice:
Links to the Draft Report and Order and Rules:
For further information, please contact Molly M. O’Conor, Attorney Advisor, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau at (202) 418-0578 or by email at Molly.OConor@fcc.gov. Individuals who use videophones and are ASL-fluent may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).