Federal ECF and EBB Programs: Where They Stand

April 20, 2021

Two new federal Internet funding programs (one for consumers and one for schools/libraries) are continuing to be developed.  This message briefly describes each program and its current status.  As more details become available, I’ll provide additional updates.

~ Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) ~

EBB is a new $3.2 billion initiative included in the December 2020 COVID relief law that will provide subsidies for Internet access and low-cost connected devices for low-income families during the pandemic or until the funds are exhausted.  Schools and libraries do not receive EBB funds under this program but it can help close the “homework gap”.

  • Who is Eligible for Subsidies:  Generally, low-income households and/or any family that has a student attending a CEP school.  Specific eligibility requirements are at:  https://www.usac.org/about/emergency-broadband-benefit-program/application-and-eligibility-resources/household-eligibility/.
  • What is Eligible:  Subsidies will be up to $50/month for Internet access, and up to $100 toward the purchase of a connected device (computer or tablet) from an EBB provider.  Only one Internet subsidy is eligible per household.  Only one connected device subsidy is eligible per household, and the household must contribute between $10-$50 towards the purchase price.
  • How Will EBB Work:  We expect that consumers will first verify eligibility, either through a USAC portal or directly with a Participating Provider.  If at least one member of the household meets the eligibility requirements, the provider enrolls the household’s current Internet access service in EBB or installs new service if existing service does not exist.  The Participating Provider will provide service and seek reimbursement from USAC — the EBB Administrator.  
  • Which Service Providers are Participating:  A total of 39 Pennsylvania providers have signed up to participate!  A full list is available at:  https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers#Pennsylvania.
  • When Will EBB Launch?  I expect the launch to be announced before the end of April.
  • How Can Schools Help?  Schools and libraries are not eligible to receive EBB benefits but are strongly encouraged to provide information about EBB to their low-income families.
  • More information:

https://getemergencybroadband.org/ - this appears to be the main page for consumers and where they will apply.



  • FCC EBB Webinar:  The FCC is hosting a webinar on EBB on Tuesday, April 27, beginning at 3:00 PM ET at www.fcc.gov/live.  Registration is not required for the webinar.   The webinar will provide an overview of EBB, eligibility information, and enrollment procedures.

~ Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) ~

ECF is a new, $7 billion inititiave included in the American Rescue Plan Law that was signed in March 2021.  The program will provide funding directly to schools and libraries to connect students, staff and library patrons while they are not on school/library campus.  The program was called “E-rate” in the statute, and it will be administered by the FCC and USAC, but it will be funded through federal approporiations and not the Universal Service Fund (E-rate).

  • When will ECF Launch:  The FCC is still taking public comments and final rules are expected to be released around May 10.  I expect the program will launch in late June or early July 2021.
  • Who is Eligible to Apply:  K-12 schools (public and private) and public libraries.  Basically, all E-rate-eligible entities.
  • What is Eligible:  Internet Access, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices (laptops/tablets).  The FCC may add other items to this list when the final rules are released.
  • Will Funding be Retroactive:  The law suggests that funding can be retroactive for eligible COVID-related purchases dating back to January 27, 2020 — the date the COVID emergency was officially declared.  The FCC will decide the final eligibility dates.
  • Is There a School/Library Funding Cap?  The FCC will determine this in their final rules.  The statute says costs must be reimbursed at 100%, but it is likely that the FCC may impose applicant-level funding caps to ensure all entities receive funding.
  • Will Double Dipping be Prohibited?  The FCC has proposed reimbursements from the ECF are limited to eligible equipment and services for which schools/libraries have not received funding through other federal programs (i.e., EBB, the CARES Act, or other provisions of the American Rescue Plan), state programs specifically targeted at providing funding for eligible equipment and services, other external sources of funding, or gifts.
  • How Will ECF Work:  We expect that schools and libraries will submit an application within their EPC Portals and after receiving approval from USAC, the reimbursement process will use the Form 472 BEAR or similar form.
  • Competitive Bidding:  For future purchases, it’s unknown whether the FCC will impose a competitive bidding requirement or simply allow schools/libraries to follow state/local procurement rules.
  • Will There be 2 Application Windows – One for Retroactive Purchases and One for Future Purchases:  The FCC has proposed 2 windows, but this may change in their final rules.
  • Will Discounted Bills be Available for Future Purchases:  The FCC is proposing that vendors will not be involved in the ECF and all funding will be made directly to schools/libraries.
  • More information:  At this time, neither USAC nor the FCC have a site dedicated to ECF.  That will obviously change in the next few weeks.  As soon as the FCC releases their final rules (on or around May 10), I will send a complete summary and schedule a webinar.

Stay tuned for more EBB and ECF updates in the coming weeks!

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o

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