FCC Order Distributing $7 Billion for Student, Educator Home Internet Access

Internet access is coming to more students with the FCC approving an order that sets up a $7 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, authorized in the American Rescue Plan. This money  will provide home internet access, hotspots and computers to connect students and educators who lack home internet access.

According to FCC documents, "before the pandemic, millions of students who lacked home broadband connections and access to computers were caught in the 'Homework Gap.' The pandemic has only exacerbated the inequities between students who have a broadband connection and those who do not. The Order addresses those inequities by helping to provide all students, school staff, and library patrons with the basic tools they need to engage in online learning and in so many other vital aspects of our increasingly digital lives."

With this action, the FCC creates the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, to help schools and libraries by funding connected devices and broadband connections for students, school staff and library patrons who otherwise would lack sufficient access to fully engage in remote learning and virtual library services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Connecting our students and educators to the internet in their homes was a problem before the pandemic, during the pandemic and will continue to be a problem after the pandemic," said AFSA President Ernest Logan. "Finally, with Congress’ inclusion of $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund in the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act, and today’s FCC’s order that establishes the mechanism for fairly, efficiently and equitably distributing these funds, the federal government is doing something about it.”

Logan added, “national leaders, like FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, U.S. Senator Edward Markey  and U.S. Representative Grace Meng, understand how this issue is just the tip of the iceberg on equity for all students. For years, they have been advocating and fighting for them. Now, through the ECF, they are delivering real resources that our communities need to give students a better opportunity to meet their learning goals.”

“FCC implementation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program is an important step towards ensuring the ‘homework gap’ does not grow into a more damaging learning and opportunity gap for our children, particularly those who live in communities of color, low-income households and rural areas,” said Markey.  “With the action by the FCC, schools and libraries can now deploy the more than $7 billion in E-Rate funding that was included in the American Rescue Plan for K–12 distance learning. Even as we continue to safely reopen schools in the months ahead, distance learning is not going away, since many schools are using hybrid models, relying on part-time at-home learning, as well as the fact that students across the country are suffering from severe learning loss and may need to continue their home education through the summer months and during evenings. And even after the coronavirus pandemic finally ends, we cannot ignore the 21st century educational requirement that students need internet access to simply finish their homework.  I thank the Commission, as well as my legislative partners, Senators Cantwell, Van Hollen, Bennet, Hassan and Congresswoman Meng, for their leadership to connect kids to opportunity.”

The new FCC order will:

  • Establish the necessary rules and policies governing the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

  • Set performance goals and metrics to measure the Commission’s and USAC’s success in efficiently and effectively administering the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

  • Adopt rules for eligible equipment and services; service locations; eligible uses; and reasonable support amounts for funding provided through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

  • Streamline and simplify the processes eligible schools and libraries use to apply for and receive reimbursements through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

  • Designate the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the administrator of the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

  • Adopt procedures to protect the limited funding from waste, fraud and abuse, including asset and service inventories; document retention requirements; prohibition on gifts; certifications, including compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act; audits; and treatment of equipment after the emergency period.

  • Delegate authority to oversee and administer the fund to the Office of the Managing Director and the Wireline Competition Bureau.

“The school leaders that make up AFSA are proud of the vital role we played in establishing this fund and look forward to working with the FCC to ensure that students and educators most in need see the benefits of it as soon as possible,” said Logan.