Some deadlines are being extended for the federal E-Rate program to help schools make adjustments while buildings are shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC announced today.
Specifically, the agency has extended the deadline for service implementation for funding-year 2019 special construction projects scheduled for June 30, 2020 until June 30, 2021. Special construction projects must normally be underway by June 30 of their funding year.
The FCC said in its statement that the “unprecedented circumstances” brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly the closure of school buildings and libraries for extended periods of time, merited a waiver of the requirements for construction projects. E-Rate helps fund schools’ efforts to improve internet connectivity inside school buildings.
The FCC, acting through the Wireless Competition Bureau, also extended the delivery service deadline for funding-year 2019 non-recurring services from September 30, 2020 to September 30, 2021; granted schools and libraries a 60-day extension to request a review or waiver for decisions by the E-Rate program administrator; provided a 120-day extension of the invoice filing deadline for applicants and service providers; and granted a 30-day extension to respond to certain information requests from the Universal Service Administrative Company, the nonprofit that oversees the E-Rate program.
The FCC’s actions are the most recent steps it has taken to use the E-Rate program to help schools put in place and run remote learning efforts due to school building shutdowns. In March, the FCC extended the deadline for funding-year 2020 E-Rate applications to April 29.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hinted at more potential changes ahead for the E-Rate in his statement announcing the deadline extensions. “I look forward to continue working with Congress to fund a Remote Learning Initiative so that every child can continue being educated during the pandemic,” he said.
The agency has also been in talks with Congress recently around allowing its funds to be used for in-home connectivity and devices used outside of school. According to Pai, the program’s rules currently limit it to funding connectivity in classrooms only.
The full statement on the changes can be found here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.