Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)
Filing Window Webinar
Funds for Learning is hosting another exclusive webinar to walk through the upcoming ECF Filing Window. This is your chance to get off to a fast start for understanding what you need to know.
When: June 23rd
Time: 11:00 AM Eastern Time
Scheduling conflict? No worries. All registrants will receive a link to a recording of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Webinar.
Set up a Consultation with FFL today, click here to schedule time
Emergency Connectivity Fund
A Guide To Federal Education Technology Funding
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, was signed into law on March 11, 2021. Included in the legislation is the creation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) for broadband internet service and equipment to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new funding source consisting of $7.1 billion to be distributed through the federal E-rate program.
What is Covered?
Emergency Connectivity Fund will provide support for broadband Internet connectivity to off-campus locations, such as student or library patron homes. In addition, funds will be available for hotspot, router, and modem hardware, as well as “connected devices” like laptops or tablets. Read the full ECF Order here
Final ECF Rules (Adopted May 10, 2021)
Broadband Equipment: Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers, including cellular air-cards, will qualify for reimbursement. Wi-Fi hotspots will be capped at $250.
Broadband Services: There are no minimum standards for network connections. One Wi-Fi hot spot is allowed per user, and, for fixed internet connections, only one service connection is allowed per location. There are no price caps for broadband services but USAC will review costs for reasonableness.
Limited Support for Off-Campus Networks: Where applicants can prove there is no commercially available internet access available, applicants may seek funding for construction of such networks.
Connected Learning Devices
Laptops and Tablets up to $400: The Commission will approve reimbursement requests up to $400 for laptops and tablets. Smartphones will not be approved. One connected device per student is allowed. There is no allowance for breakage/spares. Applicants can purchase more expensive devices, but reimbursements will be capped at the $400 limit.
Initial Filing Window (“New Purchases”): There will be an initial 45-day filing window for schools and libraries to seek reimbursement for eligible purchases made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. This is the so-called “prospective” reimbursement filing window.
Subsequent Filing Windows: If significant funds remain available, the Commission may decide to open another prospective filing window; alternatively the Commission may open a “retroactive” filing window for eligible purchases made between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
No Extra FCC Bidding. There will be no FCC-specific competitive bidding mandates (e.g., the FCC Form 470); however, applicants will certify compliance with applicable local, state, and Tribal procurement requirements.
EPC Portal. USAC will leverage the existing E-rate funding application (i.e., FCC Form 471) and processes as much as possible.
Decisions Tied to Close of Filing Window. USAC will wait until the filing window is closed and all applications are tallied to begin issuing funding commitments. Goal is for USAC to process 50% of applications within 60 days after close of filing window.
Discount Rate Determines Who Receives Funding. Should demand exceed available funds, applications will be prioritized and processed based on the Category 1 E-rate discount rate associated with a school or library. Rural applicants will receive a 5% “bump” to the discount rate used to calculate the priority of their applications. For example, rural schools and libraries who qualify for a 90% discount rate in the E-rate program will use a 95% discount and will receive top priority over their urban counterparts who also qualify for a 90% E-rate discount. If there are insufficient funds available to fund an entire discount band, priority will be given to applicants with the highest percentage of low-income students.
“Reimbursement” or “Pre-reimbursement” . Applicants will be allowed to submit reimbursement requests for invoices already paid. Applicants will also have the option to request reimbursement prior to paying for services, in which case the applicant must pay their vendors within 30-days of receiving their ECF reimbursement. The existing FCC Form 472 (BEAR) system will be used to submit payment requests, following a 60-day invoice submission timeframe. Detailed line-item vendor invoices will be required. Applicants must be registered in the Sam.gov system to receive ECF reimbursements.
Eligible Entities, Users, and Locations
E-rate Eligible Schools and Libraries. Entities do not need to be currently participating in E-rate to apply for ECF.
Eligible Users. Support is eligible for students, school staff, and library patrons who otherwise did not or do not have Internet access (subject to certification for school applicants.) Appropriate user credentials are required for access to services.
Off-campus locations. Broadband connections are eligible anywhere education is occurring (except on school or library campus.)
Filtering Required in Certain Cases. CIPA requirements only will be in effect for ECF-supported services that use ECF-supported devices.
Exception for Remote Learning-related Gifts. The typical gift rule requirements will be in effect except for goods and services directly related to remote learning.
10-year Documentation Requirement. Applicants will be required to keep documentation similar to the scope of the E-rate program.
Appeal deadline. Applicant appeals must be submitted within 30 days, rather than the E-rate program’s customary 60-day deadline.
Let Funds For Learning Help you Navigate ECF
We encourage you to leverage the experts at FFL to help you navigate these new waters.
Our mission is to provide high quality consulting and support services for the needs of E-Rate and ECF program participants. We start by understanding your needs and then we step you through the process to ensure we are meeting all the compliance guidelines in a timely manner, while reducing your workload and stress
For more information about Emergency Connectivity Fund please complete this form and an E-rate Guide will contact you as soon as possible.
Related ECF News
|ECF Application Window to Open June 29 – June 15, 2021|
|Schools and Libraries: The Power is in Your Hands – June 11, 2021|
|Emergency Connectivity Fund FAQs – May 14, 2021|
|Remote Learning Support (ECF) Launches in June – May 11, 2021|
|FCC Adopts ECF Rules, Details Pending – May 10, 2021|
|FFL Expresses Concern Over Proposed ECF Rules – May 7, 2021|
|Group Recommends Changes to ECF Benefits – May 7, 2021|
|Big Urban Schools and Telco’s Benefit Most Under Proposed ECF – May 1, 2021|
|FCC Allows Public View of Draft ECF Rules – May 1, 2021|
|Broad Support for ECF Program – April 30, 2021|
|ECF Comments Due April 23 – April 16, 2021|
|Proposal for Homework Gap Funding System – April 9, 2021|
|Broad Support for Homework Gap Program – April 9, 2021|
|FCC Starts Homework Gap Rulemaking Process – March 16, 2021|
|E-rate Ready to Help Remote Learning – March 12, 2021|
|COVID Relief Bill Includes $7.1B for E-rate – March 11, 2021|
|American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – Emergency Connectivity Fund – March 11, 2021|
|Webinar Title||Webinar Date||Duration|
|Upcoming ECF Webinar [Register here for the June 23rd event]||06/23/2021|
|ECF Filing Window Webinar||06/02/2021||1h02m11s|
|Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview||05/13/2021||1h00m14s|
ECF Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which users are eligible for ECF-supported goods and services?
|Students, school staff, and library patrons with credentials |
Specifically named in the order are students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to a device sufficient to enable them to engage in remote learning. Applicants may purchase one device per student; this applies to every student regardless of their NSLP eligibility. The order does not limit support to just “teachers” either, rather it incorporates a broader population by identifying “school staff” as eligible for support.
From the FCC release “To ensure that connected devices supported by this Program are used primarily for educational purposes and by students, school staff, and library patrons, we require schools and libraries to restrict access to eligible connected devices to only those students, school staff, and library patrons with appropriate credentials.”
Which locations are eligible for ECF-supported services?
|Any place other than the school or library campus |
In the ECF Order, the FCC defined eligible locations as basically anyplace other than the school or library (see paragraph 48). While they acknowledged that remote learning would take place in the home for most students and library patrons, the FCC did not limit or define where remote learning can happen.
The only location limit was to “prohibit schools and libraries from seeking and receiving reimbursement for eligible equipment and services purchased for use solely at the school or library”. (¶52). If the connected device was purchased with the intent of providing off-campus remote learning opportunities, the FCC acknowledged that the device may be used on-campus as well. This is in line with the ECF’s goal to close the homework gap.
Which services are eligible?
|Off-campus internet services |
Internet access services include “fixed” services like cable modem, DSL, or residential fiber service, as well as wireless services like 5G/LTE service to hotspot devices. Equipment necessary to make Internet connections functional, such as modems, routers, and hotspots are eligible as well.
Self-provisioned networks and “datacasting” solutions are presumed to be ineligible, except in cases where “no commercially available [Internet] services exist.” In limited cases where there is no commercially available service that can reach students, school staff, or library patrons, the FCC can fund the construction of networks “and/or purchase customer premises equipment to receive datacasting services.” CBRS and private LTE solutions were specifically excluded from the definition of a “router” or “modem,” but could potentially be funded in situations where there is no commercially available service that can reach a given user population.
|Learning Devices Which equipment is eligible?||Wi-fi enabled laptop computers |
Eligible connected devices include laptops and tablet computers, with the FCC setting an expectation that the devices will be “Wi-Fi enabled and able to support video conferencing platforms.” While the FCC did not impose a specific screen size requirement for eligible devices, they did exclude both desktop computers and smartphones from the ECF’s eligible services list.
Ineligible equipment and services include cybersecurity solutions, mobile phones/smart phones, standalone costs for peripherals like cameras or microphones, curriculum and/or learning management systems, videoconference service subscriptions (e.g. Zoom or Teams), and voice services.
|Service Delivery Dates When do goods and services need to be delivered to qualify for support?||Discounts for services from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 |
Services and equipment delivered from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, are the initial priority. Only those items provided during this timeframe will qualify for support in the first filing window.
If there are funds remaining after the first filing window, the FCC may decide to open a subsequent filing window(s), either for new purchases and/or for purchases made during the March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
|Application Timing How will the filing window work?||Apply this summer for funds committed this fall |
The initial ECF filing window is estimated to open in June and last for 45 days. Applications will be submitted using the existing E-rate online portal (“EPC”).
Funding commitments are expected to start by early September with 50% of decisions released by October.
Subsequent filing windows, if any, will be announced after the close of the first.
|Price Caps |
Is there a limit on reimbursement amounts?
|Hotspots and laptops subject to maximum reimbursements |
$250 is the “maximum reasonable cost for a Wi-Fi hotspot provided by a school or library to a student, school staff member, or library patron”. An applicant can spend more but will only be reimbursed up to $250 per hotspot. This maximum allowable cost is for the equipment itself, not the service. The cost of the service is not subject to a pre-defined price cap.
$400 is the maximum reimbursement amount for laptops, tablets, etc. An applicant can spend more but will only reimbursed up to $400 per device. An applicant may request a waiver of the $400 limit for users with disabilities, if necessary.
Other items, such as modems and routers, are not subject to a specific price cap, but USAC will review requests and identify those that are substantially higher than normal.
What forms will I file?
|Existing E-rate forms will be used for paperwork |
The ECF program will be administered by USAC, and, where possible, will use forms that exist within the online E-rate portal (EPC) The FCC has indicated the E-rate forms that will be used are the Form 471, Form 472 (BEAR), and Form 474 (SPI).
The Form 471 will be used as the vehicle for applying. The Form 472 (BEAR) and Form 474 (SPI) will be used to seek reimbursement.
Detailed invoices will be required at the time payment paperwork is submitted. Applicants that seek payment from the Emergency Connectivity Fund prior to paying their service provider(s) must also provide verification of payment to the service provider(s) within 30 days of receipt of funds.
All applicants must register in System for Award Management (SAM.gov). SAM is a web-based application that collects, validates, stores, and disseminates business information about the federal government’s partners in support of federal awards, grants, and electronic payment processes. It can take up to 20 days for a SAM registration to become active and an additional 24 hours before that registration information is available in other government systems.
|Internet Filtering |
How do CIPA laws impact ECF?
|Applicant-owned devices on ECF network subject to CIPA |
ECF recipients will be required to comply with CIPA requirements in a similar way to E-rate funding recipients.
The CIPA requirements will apply for the use of computers (laptops, tablets, etc.) that are owned by the applicant (school or library), if the applicant receives funding for Internet service through ECF or E-rate.
Compliance with CIPA is not required if 1) the devices are owned by the school or library applicant, but the applicant is not receiving Internet service funding from either ECF or E-rate, or if 2) the devices are owned by a third-party (the student or library patron).
The CIPA certifications for the ECF program will be included on the FCC Form 471 that applicants submit for ECF funding requests (no additional Form 486 CIPA certification will be required).
Does my organization still qualify if we previously received support?
|No reimbursements for other pandemic relief |
The FCC will not provide support for eligible equipment and services that have already been reimbursed through other federal pandemic relief programs (e.g., CARES Act, Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, or other provisions of the American Rescue Plan); state programs specifically targeted to providing funding for eligible equipment and services; other external sources of funding or gifts specifically targeted to providing funding for eligible equipment and services.
|Audit Trail |
What are the documentation requirements?
|10-year documentation requirement |
Similar to the E-rate program, applicants are required to keep documentation supporting their funding requests, goods and services delivery, and payment requests.
Additional Emergency Connectivity Fund FAQs can be viewed here