You are likely familiar with about the FCC’s newly released Emergency Connectivity Fund, which provides funding for the purpose of expanding broadband access to underconnected communities.
We know that it can be difficult, however, to make time amidst your busy day to digest these rulings and understand how they apply to you and the community you serve.
Here are some ‘fast facts’ about the ECF to help you get up to speed and making steps towards securing this funding to support digital equity in your school, district, or community.
What is the Emergency Connectivity Fund?
Released on May 11, 2021 by the FCC, the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program allocates $7.17 billion specifically for the purpose of providing 100% reimbursement for schools and libraries looking to provide adequate, reliable broadband connectivity to students, households, and communities whose need has heightened during the pandemic. This program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
Related: ECF Funding Opportunities and Reference Guide
Who is Eligible to Apply?
Schools and libraries eligible for E-rate will be eligible to apply for and receive ECF funding. Entities do not need to be currently participating in E-rate to apply for ECF.
As for location in which the connectivity services will be utilized, any off-campus location used for learning is acceptable (WiFi-equipped school buses, community centers, churches, etc). An exciting development for the school transportation world is that school buses that are to be used as WiFi hotspots are specified as eligible under this ruling.
Related: FCC Funding for School Transportation Webinar
Any students, staff, or library patrons who otherwise do not have sufficient Internet access are considered eligible end users. Applicants may purchase up to one connected device and one hotspot per eligible user.
What Services and Devices are Eligible?
Physical broadband equipment, broadband services, and connected learning devices are eligible for ECF funding. The ECF also allows for limited support of off-campus networks.
Eligible Broadband Equipment:
- WiFi hotspots
- Devices that combine a modem and router
- Cellular air-cards
WiFi hotspots are capped at $250, while other items, such as modems and routers, are not subject to a specific price cap, but should be a reasonable price. One WiFi hotspot is allowed per user, and, for fixed internet connections, only one service connection is allowed per location.
Eligible Broadband Services:
While broadband service connections for individuals have no price cap, the FCC expects that they remain within a reasonable range of $15 to $25 per month. There are no minimum standards for network connections. No more than one fixed broadband internet access connection (such as a cable modem internet) per location is permitted. No more than one laptop/tablet and no more than one WiFi hotspot per student, school staff member, or library patron are permitted, but multiple hotspots may be provided to multiple eligible users in the same home.
Schools and libraries must make this certification as part of their application for funding and must retain documentation of reasonable measures taken to determine who needed laptops/tablets and Internet.
Eligible Connected Learning Devices:
WiFi-enabled laptops and tablets up to a $400 value are eligible. Applicants can purchase more expensive devices, but reimbursements will be capped at the $400 limit. No smartphones or desktop computers are permitted, and no more than one connected device per student is allowed.
Limited Support for Off-Campus Networks:
Where applicants can prove there is no commercially available Internet access available, funding to build such networks is permitted. Applicants will have to provide clear evidence demonstrating how they determined that an existing fixed or mobile broadband network was not available, and that they sought service from existing providers, and that those providers were unable or unwilling to provide services sufficient to meet the remote learning needs.
Related: FCC Funding for Schools and Libraries Webinar
When is the Filing Window?
The FCC and USAC will open the first ECF Program application filing window today, Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at noon ET, which will fund equipment and services for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The first application filing window will be open for 45 days, during which applicants will be able to submit requests for funding for purchases to be made between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 to meet the needs of students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to basic educational opportunities and library services.
Should demand be lower than expected, the FCC may open a second ‘prospective’ filing window in lieu of a retroactive window.
How Does the Application Process Work?
Applications will be submitted in the E-rate EPC Portal and will utilize Form 471 and Form 472 BEAR (or forms similar to these). There is no competitive bidding requirement and no use of forms 470 or 486. The initial application window is expected to open in late June 2021. Eligible entities are advised to file as soon as the window opens.
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will review applications and issue Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs). Funding commitments are expected to start by early September with 50% of decisions released by October. Appeals must be submitted within 30 days.
How Can Kajeet Help?
Kajeet’s suite of Education Broadband™ services and connected devices are 100% reimbursable through ECF. Kajeet data plans are well within the price range specified as acceptable by the FCC, and all hardware, including Chromebooks, laptops, routers and WiFi hotspots, are provisioned on its connectivity management platform, Sentinel. Kajeet has helped many of our over 2,700 school district and library partners secure funding for student and patron connectivity initiatives, and we would be honored to support you in your organization’s digital equity goals.
To learn more and schedule a consultation with a Kajeet Solutions Engineer, contact us today.