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Frequently Asked Questions

Browse commonly raised questions about
the Emergency Connectivity Fund

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The FCC’s new $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program provides funding to schools and libraries for broadband Internet service and equipment to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the Emergency Connectivity Fund?

The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a federal reimbursement program that will provide $7.2 billion to schools and libraries for broadband Internet service and equipment to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.


How does my school district access the fund?

The new fund will be distributed through the federal E-rate program and provides a lifeline to the 7-12 million students who lack a home Internet connection and dedicated digital learning device.


Who is eligible for the fund?

All schools, libraries, and consortia eligible for support under the E-rate program are also eligible for support through the Emergency Connectivity Fund.  Entities do not need to be currently participating in E-rate to apply.


What locations are eligible?

The Emergency Connectivity Fund was created to close the homework gap, so broadband connections are eligible anywhere education occurs except on school or library campuses.

Schools are required to certify, as part of their funding application, that they are only seeking support for:

Eligible equipment provided to students and school staff who would otherwise lack access to connected devices sufficient to engage in remote learning.

Eligible services provided to students and school staff who would otherwise lack broadband services sufficient to engage in remote learning.


When can I apply?

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. A 45-day application window will open in June, but exact dates have not yet been announced.

If significant funds remain available, the FCC may decide to open another prospective filing window; alternatively, the FCC may open a “retroactive” filing window for purchases eligible purchases made between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.


What services are eligible?

Eligible 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.

There are no minimum standards for network connections. A single Wi-Fi hotspot is allowed per user, and only one fixed internet connection is permitted per location.

There are no price caps for broadband services, but USAC will review costs. Applicants may seek funding for the construction of off-campus networks, but support is limited, and applicants must prove there is no commercially available internet access.


What equipment is eligible?

Smartphones are not eligible, but the FCC will approve reimbursement requests up to $400 for laptops and tablets. Applicants can purchase more expensive devices, but reimbursements will be capped at the $400 limit. One connected device per student is allowed. There is no allowance for breakage/spares.


How do I estimate the number of students lacking adequate connected devices, broadband connections, or both, to engage in remote learning?

Schools will be asked to submit estimates about:

  • The number of students in their school or school district who did not have access to adequate connected devices, broadband connections, or both when the pandemic began.
  • The number of students who do not currently have access to adequate connected devices, broadband Internet access connections, or both.
  • How they expect those numbers to change with receipt of requested Emergency Connectivity Fund Program support.

If you need help to identify unconnected students, reach out to us about the K12 Bridge to Broadband Data Exchange, or conduct a survey leveraging our Home Access Needs Assessment Playbook.


What data do I need to include in my application?

To ensure that funding is focused on unmet need and collect data on the size of the homework gap, schools are required to certify, as part of their funding application, that they are only seeking support for:

  • Eligible equipment provided to students and school staff who would otherwise lack access to connected devices sufficient to engage in remote learning
  • Eligible services provided to students and school staff who would otherwise lack broadband services sufficient to engage in remote learning

You will be asked to submit estimates about:

  • The number of students in their school or school district who did not have access to adequate connected devices, broadband connections, or both when the pandemic began.
  • The number of students who do not currently have access to adequate connected devices, broadband Internet access connections, or both.
  • How you expect those numbers to change with receipt of requested Emergency Connectivity Fund Program support.

If you need help to identify unconnected students, reach out to us about the K12 Bridge to Broadband Data Exchange, or conduct a survey leveraging our Home Access Needs Assessment Playbook.


How do I apply for funding?

Applicants will use the FCC Form 471 to seek support for eligible equipment and services. 

Rural schools and libraries will be eligible to receive their standard E-rate discount plus 5 percent. Urban schools and libraries will follow the E-rate discount matrix as written for category one services based on their National School Lunch Program rate.

USAC will wait until the filing window is closed and all applications are tallied to begin issuing funding commitments. The goal is for USAC to process 50% of applications within 60 days after the close of the filing window.


Are there FCC-specific competitive bidding mandates?

No. 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.


What forms should I use to file?

USAC is administering the Emergency Connectivity Fund and will use forms that exist within the online E-rate portal (EPC).  FCC Form 471 will be used as the vehicle for applying. FCC Form 472 (BEAR) and FCC Form 474 (SPI) will be used to seek reimbursement.


What are the documentation requirements?

Applicants will be required to keep documentation supporting their funding requests, goods and services delivery, and payment requests for up to 10 years from the last date of service or delivery of equipment. 


What if demand for funding exceeds available funds?

If demand for funding exceeds 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, meaning they will receive priority over their urban counterparts with the same E-rate discount. If there are insufficient funds to fund an entire discount band, priority will be given to applicants with the highest percentage of low-income students.


Can I submit reimbursement requests for invoices already paid?

Yes. Applicants can also request reimbursement before paying for services, in which case the applicant must pay their vendors within 30-days of receiving their Emergency Connectivity Fund 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 Emergency Connectivity Fund reimbursements.


Which users are supported?

Students, school staff (not limited to just teachers), and library patrons who otherwise did not or do not have Internet access are eligible (subject to certification for school applicants.) Appropriate user credentials are required for access to services.


How do CIPA laws impact the Emergency Connectivity Fund?

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 the Emergency Connectivity Fund or E-rate.

CIPA compliance 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 Emergency Connectivity Fund or E-rate, or if 2) the devices are owned by a third-party (the student or library patron).


Can I appeal an Emergency Connectivity Fund decision?

Yes. Applicant appeals must be submitted within 30 days, rather than the E-rate program’s customary 60-day deadline.


Want to learn more?

Our team is here to connect states, school districts, and Internet Service Providers. Together we are working to close the homework gap and bridge the digital divide.

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