The Emergency Connectivity Fund: Getting Ready for the Application Window

OAB FCC Information is courtesy Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.

Posted On: May 20, 2021

The Universal Service Administrative Co. (“USAC”) will soon establish a deadline to file applications for funding from the $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund recently established by Congress and the FCC. These funds can be used to provide broadband Internet access services, Wi-Fi hotspots, and equipment to non-profit schools (elementary and secondary) and libraries to enable remote learning for students, school staff, and library patrons from their homes and other off-premises locations, such as community centers, churches, and school buses. This fund provides an opportunity for telephone companies, telehealth networks, and non-telephone company providers of services and products to partner with schools and libraries to build good will in their local communities or to market their services and products outside their existing service areas.

Any vendor or service provider can obtain funds from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, as participation is not restricted to eligible telecommunications carriers (“ETCs”). The FCC also did not impose any competitive bidding for this fund. In order to reduce their burden, schools and libraries can allow their service providers to invoice and receive payment directly from the Emergency Connectivity Fund. Requests for reimbursement can be submitted before the school or library has paid the vendor for the service or equipment.

There are steps that can be taken now to get ready prior to the opening of the application window. Only applicants and service providers that are registered with the System for Award Management (“SAM”) will be able to receive payment from the Emergency Connectivity Fund. Because it can take more than a week to obtain SAM.gov registration approval, those interested in participating in the Emergency Connectivity Fund should consider starting the registration process now. Schools and libraries that intend to submit applications must also obtain an FCC Registration Number.

The first application window will fund broadband Internet access and equipment provided between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. Broadband Internet access services eligible for funding include leased lit fiber, DSL, cable modem, wireless (fixed or mobile), and satellite. While the amount of the reimbursement for those services has not been capped, the FCC expects applications to price those services in the range between $10 and $25 per month per fixed broadband location. The Emergency Connectivity Fund will also reimburse up to $400 per connected device (such as laptops or tablet computers) and up to $250 per Wi-Fi hotspot equipment. Funding is also available for routers, modems (e.g. air cards), and devices that combine a router and modem. Funding for construction of a broadband network is only available where broadband service is not available to a student, school staff member, or library patron.

Should you have any questions concerning the Emergency Connectivity Fund or need assistance with the registration or application processes, please give us a call.

Courtesy Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC