WASHINGTON—As the COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting schools and the need for remote learning, Congress approved a $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, for which the FCC is responsible for determining the distribution of funds. Now, the FCC’s Wireless Competition Bureau is seeking comment on the provision of support for these funds.
Per the law, the FCC must begin distributing the funds within 60 days of enactment to eligible schools and/or libraries, as well as for homes, to help with the purchase of equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services. Equipment covered under the bill includes Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and connected devices. Smartphones are not covered, nor is the dark fiber or the construction of new networks.
Among the key questions that the FCC is seeking comment on are what rules should be adopted to effectively distribute funding so as to meet the connectivity needs of students, staff and library patrons. It also asks what level of service and data thresholds are needed to accommodate households that have multiple students of staff members?
The Universal Service Fund Administrator (USAC) has been tapped to administer the Emergency Connectivity Fund. As a result, the FCC also seeks comment on how to measure USAC’s performance running the program. This includes if specific goals for adoption by students, staff or patrons should be set, or if end-user devices should be included and what they should be if so.
The deadline for submitting comments has been set for April 5. Reply comments will be due April 23.
The full Public Notice is available to read online.
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