E-rate/Schools and Libraries Program
The recently-approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocated $7.171 billion to a new Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), an historic expansion of the E-rate program to connect students, teachers, and library patrons who lack home broadband access.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr is urging Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to publicly release the draft text of a forthcoming proposal allocating $7.1 billion in pandemic relief subsidies for distance learning. Commissioner Carr says she should publish it before commissioners vote on the item to make it easier to coordinate with the Departments of Education and Treasury on broadband spending, which he sees as a matter of good governance with taxpayer money.
Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel revealed just how soon she hopes to set up the $7 billion subsidy program aimed at helping students get internet connections at home. Congress slated this money for the FCC as part of the pandemic relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in march. The FCC is still “mid-course in developing” the program for doling out these subsidies, which could help put Wi-Fi hotspots and modems in the hands of students stuck at home, said Chairman Rosenworcel.
The COVID crisis has highlighted both the severity of the so-called "homework gap" and the shortcomings of early remedies like mobile hotspots and even low-cost home broadband plans. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, schools and cities across the country are increasingly testing novel ways to get students connected, not just for the duration of the pandemic, but for the long term.
Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel offered measured confidence about expanding broadband connectivity in schools following the pandemic. Addressing a virtual roundtable meeting of local officials from around Maryland, Chairwoman Rosenworcel promoted a trio of programs funded by Congress and the FCC aimed at improving connectivity for disadvantaged schools and communities.
There is no shortage of options for immediate and long-term funding for K-12 home connectivity solutions.
FOR LONG TERM K-12 FUNDING:
The Federal Communications Commission has a new $7 billion pot for schools to recoup the costs of paying for student and teacher access to broadband at home — and now the agency must figure out how to distribute the money. Here are six critical issues that companies keeping track of the FCC program should watch for:
1. What Devices and Services Will Be Eligible?
2. Will Purchases From 2020 Be Eligible?
3. How Will Procurement Work?
The digital divide leaves millions without access to high-speed broadband and the immense opportunities it provides. I’m proud to say that we have secured a historic broadband investment in the American Rescue Plan. First, $10 billion for broadband deployment and infrastructure, digital inclusion and other efforts to close the digital divide. These funds represent one of the most important broadband investments ever made in the history of the United States.
To help schools and libraries provide devices and internet connectivity to students, school staff, and library patrons during the pandemic, Congress established a $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Now the Federal Communications Commission must craft rules to distribute the new funds to eligible schools and libraries for the purchase of eligible equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services for use by students, school staff, and library patrons at locations other than a school or library.
Theodore Marcus once was an in-house lawyer for AT&T, tasked with reviewing whether the company was overcharging schools and libraries for Internet and telephone service. Marcus came to believe that AT&T did not charge low prices required by law, misled the government about its compliance with the rules of a federal program (E-Rate), and then rebuffed his concerns. A few months before he left AT&T, Marcus handed what he thought was damning information to a lawyer suing the company, with the expectation that he might share in the payout if the suit was victorious.