The American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Connectivity Fund third application window is available April 28 through May 13, and schools and libraries are preparing the information they need to successfully apply — starting with assessing unmet needs.
“The opening of the filing window will start the process of awarding $7.17 billion in funds to support the purchase of connected devices (laptop and tablet computers), Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connections for off-campus use to serve the unmet needs of students, school staff and library patrons,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a June 15, 2021 statement.
When students and patrons were first sent home in March 2020, schools and libraries had to gauge what was needed to provide an internet connection and/or a connected device to those who would otherwise lack access to remote learning.
This process may have included:
The results are central to the ECF application process. Schools and libraries must provide a summary of their surveying process along with a copy of the survey, letter or questionnaire, and a compilation of results (both unmet and met needs) as of March 2020 and for the soon-to-close 2021-2022 school year.
Applicants must next review those results to estimate what needs they expect to continue to be unmet and still unfilled for the upcoming July 1, 2022-December 31, 2023 purchasing period. This forecast might include connected devices and services (mobile wireless) still adequate for students, school staff and library patrons to engage in remote learning/access.
Questions to consider when creating an unmet needs estimate:
Once ECF funds are approved for your school or library, the unmet needs surveys can serve as your “Device and Service Tracking Record,” required by the ECF. Unlike other E-Rate cycles, ECF mandates schools and libraries to track devices and/or internet services down to the individual person. These records must be retained for at least 10 years following the end of the ECF program.
For each connected device provided to an individual student or family, school staff member or library patron, documentation must include:
For internet service (mobile wireless) connectivity provided via a school bus, mobile library truck, community center, homeless shelter or other outreach location for use by multiple students or library patrons, documentation must include:
Be specific. If the signal reaches only a few blocks, note the neighborhood or crossroad, not just the city.
With the ECF window open only 15 days, preparation now will help schools and libraries to quickly get their ECF applications submitted. Now is a good time to contact UScellular to start purchasing needed devices and setting up mobile services to begin on July 1, 2022.
UScellular is here to support you. Our in-house E-Rate specialist will answer your questions and help guide you through the arduous ECF application process. And, with extensive experience working with schools and libraries, we look forward to assisting you to meet your unmet needs.
To prepare for the 45-day filing window, the FCC recommends that schools and libraries: