Our schools and communities face unprecedented challenges in responding to the global pandemic. We understand that now, more than ever, technology and connectivity guidance is critical.
While many school district leaders must focus on at-home connectivity and distance education in the short term, long-term technology planning will also shift to address changes made during this time. Despite the challenges ahead, we are here to provide connectivity and E-rate support during COVID-19.
Here are a few ways the E-rate and broadband community is working to help connect your students during the crisis.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The FCC took two steps to support schools in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- They extended the E-rate Form 471 deadline to April 29, 2020. This means the last possible date for filing an effective Form 470 for FY 2020 is April 1, 2020, 11:59 PM EDT. This is a 35-day extension for all applicants. They also directed USAC to provide all applicants with an automatic, 14-day extension for Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) requests.
- They temporarily waived gift rules through September 30, 2020. The FCC waived a rule prohibiting E-rate program participants from accepting free broadband services and devices. This means internet service providers (ISPs) can support increased access to broadband and remote learning applications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All state E-rate coordinators are available to assist applicants with questions and provide E-rate support during COVID-19. You may locate your E-rate coordinator by visiting the State E-rate Coordinators List.
CEO John Harrington stated, “No school or library should miss out on E-rate funding for Internet access because of the coronavirus.” With that in mind, Funds For Learning will support any school district or library in need of immediate help to meet the E-rate filing deadline at no charge. Find out more.
SHLB has been hard at work advocating for changes and E-rate support during COVID-19. They recently urged the FCC to take additional measures to support schools, including hot-spot lending programs and adjusting technical rules. Read their recommendations.
Future Ready Schools
As classes move online for many school districts, Future Ready Schools organized a petition to help students get the Internet access they need to continue learning. They are calling on the FCC to leverage the E-rate program to expand home access for students during COVID-19 – especially those in rural areas, students of color, and students from low-income families. Learn more.
Our ongoing E-rate guidance, tips, and best practices
Due to the rapidly changing circumstances, we understand that E-rate and long-term planning may not be top-of-mind for school district leaders. We’ll continue to share updates – such as the Form 471 deadline extension to April 29, 2020 – on our blog and in monthly emails.
With the completion of our mission to upgrade the Internet in America’s public schools, our organization is due to sunset in August. We want to reassure district leaders that our technical assistance, tools, and resources will remain accessible to you when the time comes to revisit your application. You can also message us at any time via our Upgrade Program Page.
Thank you, as always, to all of the educators working to support students during this uncertain time. We stand ready to support you in the months ahead.