FCC Announces the $7.17 Billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to Help Schools Close the Homework Gap

As our
students return to school buildings and we move from pandemic response to
recovery, technology will be essential for meeting the needs of diverse
learners, supporting teachers, and providing school and district leaders with
flexible models to support learning. It is important that we remain focused on addressing the digital divide
for students in order to build our education system back better than it was
before the pandemic. Reliable home internet access is also critical for helping
our students’ families recover—including providing access to online workforce
development resources, job skills training, and telehealth services.

That’s why in May, the U.S. Department of Education partnered
with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch
a major outreach campaign
to inform millions of families with children
participating in the free or reduced-price lunch or school breakfast program
and 6.5 million Pell Grant recipients about their eligibility for a
monthly discount on broadband internet service through the FCC Emergency
Broadband Benefit Program.

And why we are excited today to announce another new
funding opportunity to help schools close the Homework Gap – the $7.17 billion
FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF).

Under the ECF Program, eligible schools and libraries can
apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and
tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve
the unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during
the COVID-19 emergency period.

Prepare now for the 45-day ECF Application window

The 45-day application filing window for the ECF Program opens on June 29, 2021 and will run through August 13, 2021, but there are actions schools can take now to prepare. This ECF Factsheet and Getting Started Guide provide an overview of the program and how schools can prepare for the application filing window.

Upcoming webinar & training

The FCC will host a webinar on June 25, at 2pm EST on fcc.gov/live to provide an overview of the ECF Program, including applicant eligibility, supported equipment and services, reasonable support amounts, and the application and invoicing processes. No registration is required for this event. 

In addition, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the program’s administrator, recently hosted a series of outreach and training sessions about the ECF Program. You can access resources from past sessions by visiting: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/training/live-sessions/.  You may also contact USAC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Customer Support Center at (800) 234-9781, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET or attend one of their weekly office hours.

The $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund was established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.