Yesterday (5/10), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted final rules to implement the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program.
The ECF program was created through the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). This legislation provides $7.17 billion to help students struggling with the Homework Gap, the term that commonly refers to the education digital divide that impacts millions of students who lack adequate internet and broadband connectivity when they are at home or working remotely elsewhere.
The ECF program will help schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity to assist students, school staff, and library patrons who need assistance in connecting.
The new rules define eligible equipment and services, service locations, eligible uses, and reasonable support amounts for funding provided. The new rules designate the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the program administrator with FCC oversight, and leverage the processes and structures used in the federal E-Rate program for the benefit of schools and libraries already familiar with the E-Rate program. The new rules also adopt procedures to protect the limited funding from waste, fraud, and abuse
The link to the FCC press statement can be accessed here.
More detailed information about the Emergency Connectivity Fund is expected to be released prior to the application window in summer 2021.