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FCC Allows Public View of Draft ECF Rules

The FCC is developing the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program, a one-time program offering $7.171 billion in support to schools and libraries for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final rules are expected to be released by May 10, 2021.

Because of the unique timing and circumstance of this program, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has taken special action to allow the public a peek at the proposed rules. These potential rules are being circulated for a vote amongst the four FCC Commissioners. The proposed rules have not yet been adopted, and at least three Commissioners must vote in favor of them.

Interested parties will have until Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 6:00pm EDT to provide the FCC with feedback and additional information. At that point, the Commission will close the record and the ECF rules will be finalized and published within several days.

Below is a summary of the draft rules as they stand. These are not the final rules. By publicly circulating this draft Order, the Commission is giving the public one last opportunity to respond before the ECF rules are finalized.


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:  No price cap 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.  Bidding will be required for prospective build-out.


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.


Filing Window

Initial Filing Window: There will be an initial 45-day filing window for schools and libraries to seek reimbursement for eligible purchases made between July 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021.

Subsequent Filing Window(s): If funds remain after the initial filing window, applicants will be allowed to request reimbursements for eligible purchases made between May 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022 in a subsequent filing window. 


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.  An exception is the prospective build-out of off-campus networks where no commercially available Internet access exists.


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.  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 Only. Applicants will pay 100% and then submit reimbursement requests.  The existing FCC Form 472 (BEAR) system will be used, 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

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.


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