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Emergency Connectivity Fund

Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

Funds For Learning will be hosting a webinar on February 17th at 11:00 AM Eastern. Join us as we answer key questions and gain additional information.

When: February 17th
Time: 11:00 AM Eastern Time

Scheduling conflict? No worries. All registrants will receive a link to a recording of the Webinar.

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 Connections

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.


Filing Window

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 Window: A second 15-day filing window for schools and libraries to seek reimbursement for eligible purchases made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, opens September 28, 2021 and closes October 13, 2021.   


Competitive Bidding

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. 


Application Process

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.     


Payment Process

“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 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.  


Second ECF Filing Window

The second 15-Day ECF filing window opens September 28, 2021 and closes October 13, 2021. Eligible schools and libraries will be able to apply for ECF support for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 for students, school staff, and library patrons with unmet needs.

The ECF Program provides support to schools and libraries for the reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, routers, modems, and broadband Internet connections for use by students, school staff, and library patrons at locations that include locations other than a school or library. Funding is limited to students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to connected devices and broadband Internet services sufficient to engage in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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

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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

Over $361M in Additional ECF Support Committed – January 10, 2022
Waiver Requests of ECF Reimbursement Cap Addressed – January 4, 2022
Nearly $603M in Additional ECF Support Committed – December 20, 2021
82% of ECF Applicants Receive Commitments – December 10, 2021
FCC Grants ECF Invoice Deadline Waiver – December 2, 2021
Over $169 Million in ECF Support Committed – November 23, 2021
SECA Seeks Waiver of ECF Invoice Deadline – November 23, 2021
No More Guessing: $4.51 Billion Needed Yearly for Homework Gap – November 10, 2021
Another $421 Million Committed for ECF – November 9, 2021
12.9 million devices requested via ECF – November 5, 2021
Nearly $1.3 Billion Requested in Second ECF Filing Window – October 25, 2021
Nearly Half of Initial ECF Requests Committed – October 22, 2021
ECF Filing Window Closes Today – October 13, 2021
Over $1.1 Billion Committed in Second Funding Wave – October 12, 2021
44% of E-rate Applicants Submitted ECF – October 8, 2021
ECF Invoicing Now Available Via ECF Portal – October 5, 2021
8.8 Million Computers Requested in First ECF – October 1, 2021
Second ECF Filing Window Now Open – September 28, 2021
Regulatory Relief for Areas Affected by Ida – September 7, 2021
ECF Webinar FAQs – September 3, 2021
Second ECF Filing Window Opens September 28 – August 25, 2021
ECF Reimbursement Forms Coming Soon – August 17, 2021
FCC Reminds Applicants of the ECF Deadline – August 11, 2021
USAC Extends Customer Support Center Hours – August 10, 2021
ECF Should Not Cap Taxes and Shipping – August August 6, 2021
Emergency Connectivity Fund Common Misconceptions – August 3, 2021
FCC ECF Webinar Recap – August 3, 2021
Emergency Connectivity Fund, July 21, FAQs – July 29, 2021
ECF Webinar On Frequently Asked Questions – July 27, 2021
ECF Service Delivery Date Established – July 22, 2021
Get Students Online for Free. ECF Forms Are Due ASAP – July 21, 2021
August 13 ECF Deadline is Quickly Approaching – July 16, 2021
American Library Association Concerned About ECF Rules – July 1, 2021
ECF Filing Window Open: FCC Launches ECF – June 29, 2021
One-time Emergency Connectivity Fund application window opens today – June 29, 2021
Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) “Homework Gap” Rules Clarified – June 25, 2021
Steps to Take Before ECF Filing Window Opens – June 25, 2021
FCC Releases Erratum for Emergency Connectivity Fund – June 24, 2021
Sorting Out Connectivity Funding Options – June 18, 2021
FCC Announces ECF Trainings – June 18, 2021
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 FAQsMay 14, 2021
Remote Learning Support (ECF) Launches in JuneMay 11, 2021
FCC Adopts ECF Rules, Details Pending May 10, 2021
FFL Expresses Concern Over Proposed ECF RulesMay 7, 2021
Group Recommends Changes to ECF BenefitsMay 7, 2021
Big Urban Schools and Telco’s Benefit Most Under Proposed ECFMay 1, 2021
FCC Allows Public View of Draft ECF RulesMay 1, 2021
Broad Support for ECF ProgramApril 30, 2021
ECF Comments Due April 23April 16, 2021
Proposal for Homework Gap Funding SystemApril 9, 2021
Broad Support for Homework Gap ProgramApril 9, 2021
FCC Starts Homework Gap Rulemaking ProcessMarch 16, 2021
E-rate Ready to Help Remote LearningMarch 12, 2021
COVID Relief Bill Includes $7.1B for E-rateMarch 11, 2021
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – Emergency Connectivity FundMarch 11, 2021

ECF Webinars

Webinar TitleWebinar DateDuration
Upcoming E-rate and ECF Webinar [Register here for the February 17th event] 02/17/2022
E-rate and ECF Webinar – January 20th01/20/20220h59m03s
E-rate and ECF Webinar – December 9th12/09/20210h58m06s
ECF Webinar – November 10th11/10/20210h53m57s
ECF Filing Window Webinar – October 6th10/06/20210h57m17s
Second Filing Window ECF Webinar – September 2nd 09/02/20210h49m20s
ECF Webinar Update – August 1108/11/20211h01m02s
ECF Webinar – July 2107/21/20210h59m09s
ECF Webinar: Support of Remote Learning – June 2306/23/20210h57m22s
ECF Filing Window Webinar – June 2 06/02/20211h02m11s
Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview05/13/20211h00m14s

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 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 (ECF) FAQs:

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Our mission is to provide high-quality consulting and support services for the needs of E-rate program participants. We consult with applicants to help them understand, effectively utilize, and maintain compliance with E-rate rules and regulations. We help prepare and submit paperwork, and interact with program administrators on our clients’ behalf.

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