Understanding the Multiple Application Windows for Emergency Connectivity Funding

Windows aren’t always transparent. Although the new Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) original application window has closed, the FCC has opened a second window September 28-October 13, 2021, but many schools and libraries still are confused by what they’re applying for and when to apply.

Future Funding Window: September 28-October 13, 2021

The new ECF application filing window provides funding for future services and purchases of equipment for students, school staff and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to connected devices and broadband connections for the 2021-2022 academic year. This initial application filing window:

  • will include eligible equipment and services ordered and received July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022
  • will include eligible future services received July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022 on previously purchased devices (but not the device)
  • will not include eligible equipment and services received or delivered before July 1, 2021

Note: Unlike E-Rate, schools and libraries may apply for ECF funding on eligible equipment and services purchased without having conducted an FCC-mandated competitive bidding process.

For this window, ECF is again prioritizing funding for:

  • Equipment purchases made by schools and libraries after July 1, 2021
  • Services delivered from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022

Eligible Equipment and Services

Once future funding is complete and if funds remain, the FCC may open windows for reimbursements retroactive to March 1, 2020.

This reimbursement application filing window will apply exclusively to:

  • Prior purchases including connected devices purchased between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021
  • Eligible services received between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 for any connected device

Eligible Equipment and Services

Schools and libraries may seek 100% funding from ECF for eligible equipment and services intended for the 2021-2022 school year. Purchases made between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 must be used to implement connections for locations outside the physical campus and may include:

  • Broadband services providing connectivity for off-campus (households, kiosks, school buses, churches, etc.) use by students, school staff or library patrons
  • Broadband equipment including Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, cellular air-cards and devices that combine a modem and router
  • Connected learning devices including laptop and tablet computers or similar devices that can connect to qualifying broadband networks

There is a $400 cap on reimbursement per connected device and a $250 cap on Wi-Fi hotspots. The program is limited to one connected device or one Wi-Fi hotspot per student, school staff member or library patron, and does not allow for the purchase of extra devices in case of loss or breakage.

Filing Window FAQs

Question: Can schools and libraries seek reimbursement for hotspots?

Answer: Eligible for reimbursement up to $250 per device, hotspots purchased:

  • after July 1, 2021 are eligible during the future funding window
  • before July 1, 2021 are eligible during the reimbursement window
  • before March 1, 2020 are not eligible

Question: Can schools and libraries request reimbursement for monthly service of hotspots and connected devices?

Answer: All monthly services beginning July 1, 2021 are included in the second funding window that opens September 28-October 13 no matter when the device was purchased. Monthly services incurred between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 may be eligible during the reimbursement window.

Question: Can a school or library use ECF funds to replace a connected device in this window that was broken during the 2020-2021 school year?
Answer: Yes, ECF funds can be used to purchase a replacement after July 1 for items that are missing, lost or damaged for which there is no other grant funding.

Question: What if I order an item but my vendor is unable to deliver the items by July 1 due to pandemic shortages?

Answer: This application filing window can include eligible equipment ordered but not yet received, as long as the items are received by June 30, 2022.

Your UScellular™ ECF Partner

UScellular is here to address all your FAQs. Our in-house ECF specialist will answer your questions and help guide you through the application process. And, with extensive experience working with schools and libraries, our government solutions experts look forward to helping you see through the ECF windows.

Now is a good time to contact UScellular to start purchasing needed devices and setting up mobile services to begin as soon as your application is approved.

Get started by reaching out to your local solutions expert at 866-616-5587 or by filling out this form.

Tips to Prepare for ECF Filing Windows

To prepare for the future funding window, the FCC recommends that schools and libraries:

  • Review the ECF order and visit the FCC and org web pages
  • Sign up to receive information and updates about the program.
  • View webinars on how to complete an application.
  • Obtain or locate an FCC registration number (FRN) — needed to apply for ECF support
  • Verify you are not in red light status at the FCC or on the U.S. Treasury’s do not pay list
  • Register with System for Award Management at gov — required to receive funds; allow 10-20 days for registration to become active
  • Evaluate unmet needs