Rules for the Emergency Connectivity Fund adopted yesterday by the FCC call for schools and libraries to enter into contracts with service providers for hotspots, modems and routers, said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in answer to a question from Telecompetitor on a call with reporters today.
“Precisely how every school or library will get this support is really dependent on the applications they file before us and the contracts that they enter into with service providers,” she said.
FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund
The Emergency Connectivity Fund was established in the American Rescue Plan adopted by federal legislators early this year and signed into law by President Biden. The fund includes over $7 billion for schools and libraries to make equipment and connectivity available to students who currently lack them.
“This is a really big deal,” said Rosenworcel on the press call. “It is the largest single effort in the nation’s history to make sure students have access to broadband and devices they need for school. It is going to help close up the homework gap so kids who have been locked out of the virtual classroom can go online for class and do their nightly schoolwork.”
In addition, she said, the program “makes it possible for libraries to offer patrons new ways to go online and bring connectivity home.”
Rosenworcel expects applications for the Emergency Connectivity Fund to be accepted beginning in June. Schools and libraries will have 45 days to file in the first of two filing windows. The first filing window will focus on prospective purchases, while the second window will focus on money that schools and libraries already have spent.
The concept behind the program is that local schools and libraries are in the best position to make decisions about which students and library patrons should receive devices and connectivity through the program, which according to an FCC press release, will be administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company.
The final rules for the FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund are expected to be made public soon, but according to a recently released draft of those rules, each eligible location would be allowed no more than one fixed broadband connection and one connected device, but more than one Wi-Fi hotspot may be allowed.
In cases where broadband connectivity is not locally available, schools or libraries may be allowed to use program funding to establish connectivity on their own, Rosenworcel said, adding that there are some “interesting experiments going on” in that area.