The FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) to help schools and libraries close the Homework Gap will start accepting applications on June 29, 2021.
Under the ECF Program, eligible schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve the unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the COVID-19 emergency period.
Eligible Equipment and Services
When it comes to equipment and services, you want to ensure you have the best gadgets available for all your technological needs. The FCC has clearly defined which devices you can purchase, install, and configure. The questions below will help you get a better understating of how you can meet the technological needs for your school or library.
Q: Will the ECF Program support installation and configuration performed by a third-party vendor that is different from the vendor that sold the equipment to the applicant?
A: No. Installation and configuration costs will only be eligible for ECF support if they are provided by the same vendor that is providing the eligible equipment.
Q: Do eligible connected devices need to be capable of connecting to a cellular service (LTE or 5G)?
A: No. While laptop computers and tablet computers must be capable of connecting to broadband internet in order to be eligible for funding as a connected device, they do not need to be capable of connecting via a cellular service. We expect the connected devices to be Wi-Fi enabled and able to support video conferencing platforms and other software necessary to ensure full participation in remote learning.
Q: Are Chromebooks and iPads eligible as connected devices?
A: Yes. Applicants may request ECF support for Chromebooks, iPads and other laptops or tablets. We expect these devices to be Wi-Fi enabled and able to support video conferencing platforms and other software necessary to ensure full participation in remote learning. Chromebooks may be requested under the laptop equipment category.
Q: Is a license to use a connected device eligible for ECF support?
A: Licenses included in the base price of the connected devices are eligible for support and do not require cost allocation, but separately priced licenses are ineligible for ECF funding.
Q: For the initial application filing window, do the eligible equipment and services need to be purchased and received after July 1, 2021?
A: Equipment and services can be ordered before July 1, 2021, but they cannot be received, delivered, or paid for before July 1, 2021. Note: There is an exception for monthly services that were prepaid prior to the adoption of the ECF Order (see below).
Q: For the initial application filing window, are monthly services that were prepaid prior to the adoption of the ECF Order eligible, such as when an applicant prepaid for a multiyear contract last year?
A: Applicants may seek reimbursement for services delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 that were prepaid prior to the ECF Order adoption on May 10, 2021, if they can demonstrate that the services were purchased to meet unmet student, school staff, or library patron needs. Such applicants may not seek reimbursement until after the services have been delivered. Prepaid equipment is ineligible for ECF support during the first application filing window, which is limited to equipment and services received, delivered, and paid for between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.
Q: Can applicants prepay and seek support for multiyear contracts?
A: No. Applicants may only seek support for the monthly costs of services delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. Approved applicants may not seek reimbursement until after the services have been delivered.
Q: We bought Wi-Fi hotspots last year. Can we request ECF support for the monthly service costs?
A: Yes, monthly service costs for services delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 are eligible, but the cost of the Wi-Fi hotspots themselves is not if they were received prior to July 1, 2021.
Q: Can applicants lease connected devices?
A: Yes, connected devices may be leased, but the cost of the leased devices must be reasonable. USAC will carefully review requests for leased devices to ensure the costs are reasonable compared to the $400 limit for purchasing a connected device.
Q: Commercially available fixed or mobile broadband internet access services are eligible for ECF support. Does that mean that the services purchased must also be available to the general public?
A: No. To be eligible for ECF support, commercially available broadband services must be available for purchase, but they do not have to be available to the general public. For example, services purchased through bulk purchasing arrangements are eligible.
Q: Where there is no commercially available internet access service option, what must an applicant do to seek support for construction of broadband networks?
A: Only where there is no commercially available internet access service option, applicants may seek support for construction of broadband networks. For network construction, applicants seeking support must:
1. provide clear evidence demonstrating how they determined that an existing fixed or mobile broadband network was or is not available including by seeking service from existing service providers serving the area prior to constructing the network;
2. define the geographic area that will be served and assess the estimated number of students and school staff, or library patrons to be served;
3. certify that they sought such service and providers were unable or unwilling to provide services sufficient to meet the remote learning needs of their students, school staff, or library patrons; and
4. show the construction is completed and services provided within one year of a funding commitment decision.
Q: Who owns the equipment purchased with ECF support?
A: Schools and libraries, as the applicants, will own the equipment purchased with ECF support.
More questions on the ECF Program? Visit the FCC’s FAQ Page