FCC Releases DRAFT ECF Rules

May 3, 2021

On Friday, the FCC took the rare step of publishing a DRAFT of their proposed rules implementing the new $7 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) that will provide funding directly to schools and libraries to connect students, staff and library patrons while they are not on school/library campus.  The FCC is giving the public until Wednesday, May 5 at 6:00 p.m. EDT to provide final feedback on their draft.  Final rules are expected to be issued on May 10.  In order for me to provide instant feedback to the FCC in the next 2 days on some key issues, I am asking PA schools and libraries to answer a brief 8-question survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ECF_PA  before noon tomorrow (Tuesday, May 4).

Below is a brief summary of what the FCC is proposing, but please keep in mind these have not been adopted and may change by the time the final rules are released.    After the FCC releases the final rules next week, I’ll send a detailed summary to the listserve and schedule a webinar to answer everyone’s questions.

Draft ECF Order Summary:

  • Funding Caps/Prioritization:  A $400 cap on laptops/tablets and $250 cap on wi-fi devices.  All other equipment/services are proposed to be reimbursed at 100% (no funding caps or discount matrix applied).  Should demand exceed available funds in the first or second filing windows, applications will be prioritized based on the applicant’s Category 1 E-rate discount.
  • Retroactivity:  Reimbursements for eligible expenditures, not already paid for by pandemic-targeted federal, state or other funding source, will be reimbursed going back to July 1, 2020.
  • Eligible Equipment:  Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers, including cellular air-cards.  Smartphones are not eligible.
  • Eligible Services:  Generally, DSL, cable, fiber, fixed wireless, satellite, and mobile wireless.
  • Off-Campus Networks:  Where applicants can prove there is no commercially available Internet access available, funding to build such networks is permitted.
  • Competitive Bidding:  No federal competitive bidding requirements for retroactive or future purchases.
  • Filing Window:  Initial 45-day filing window for purchases made between July 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021.  If funds remain, there will be a second filing window that will cover expenditures from May 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022.  Applications will be submitted in the E-rate EPC portal.
  • Payment Process:  No vendor-discounted bills.  Applicants will pay for services/equipment and then submit reimbursement requests via the existing Form 472 (BEAR) system.  Detailed vendor invoices will be required to be submitted.  Also, applicants must be registered in the federal Sam.gov system to receive ECF reimbursements.
  • Eligible Entities:  Schools and libraries eligible for E-rate will be eligible for ECF funding.  Entities do not need to be currently participating in E-rate to apply for ECF.
  • Eligible Locations:  Any off-campus location where education is occurring (not just the home).  Wireless service for school buses and bookmobiles is also eligible.
  • Eligible Students/Staff/Library Patrons:  Those who otherwise do not or did not have Internet access off-campus.  There is currently no income qualification to receive connected devices or Internet access.
  • Duplicate Funding Prohibition:  Applicants cannot seek ECF funding where equipment or services have been purchased or reimbursed with other targeted (pandemic relief) federal funding, targeted state funding, other external sources of targeted funding, or targeted gifts.
  • Detailed Inventory Record Keeping – Services:  Applicants must maintain a record of services purchased with ECF support which includes (some, but not all of this data will be requested on the ECF application):
    • type of service provided (i.e., DSL, cable, fiber, fixed wireless, satellite, mobile wireless)
    • broadband plan details, including: upload and download speeds and monthly data cap
    • the name(s) of the person(s) to whom the service was provided; and for fixed broadband service
    • the service address
    • the installation date of service:
    • the last date of service
  • Detailed Inventory Record Keeping – Equipment:  Applicants must maintain a record of equipment purchased with ECF support which includes (some, but not all of this data will be requested on the ECF application):
    • device type (i.e., laptop, tablet, mobile hotspot, modem/router)
    • equipment serial number
    • name of the person to whom the device was provided

If you would like to submit brief comments to the FCC before Wednesday, May 5 at 6:00 p.m. EDT, they can be submitted at:  https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express.  Reference Proceeding 21-93.

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell

Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o


Site graciously hosted by the Capital Area IU 15 | Site designed and maintained by Silver Penny Studio