Emergency Connectivity Fund

Apply for Emergency Connectivity Fund discounts during the 45-day window.
Get your library ready to do business with the federal government.

Section 7402 of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enacts the new $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). ECF is intended to help bridge the "Homework Gap". It will be administered by USAC, the Universal Service Administrative Co. under the aegis of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau. USAC also administers the E-Rate program for libraries and schools.

Purpose

ECF funds are to be used “for the purchase during a COVID–19 emergency period of eligible equipment or advanced telecommunications and information services (or both)”. Eligible equipment includes (but may not be limited to):

  • wi-fi hotspots,
  • modems,
  • routers,
  • devices that combine a modem and router,
  • and connected devices (such as tablets and chromebooks).
Eligible libraries are defined following the E-Rate definition: public libraries and some independent libraries that are considered eligible for support under LSTA. Libraries affiliated with a school, college or university are not eligible.

Status

News: The ECF Application window will open on June 29 and stay open for 45 days through August 13. Libraries can apply for 100% discount on eligible equipment for goods and services purchased, or expected to be purchased, in FY22.  (6/15/21).

The FCC released its Report and Order on May 11, which lays down the new rules for ECF.  The final order reflects comments from numerous stakeholders on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including reply comments filed by the MBLC.

ALA has put up an information page (6/9/21) that provides a thorough overview for libraries.

Differences From E-Rate

Even though some aspects of the new program are not yet clear, the following distinctions should be reliable.

  • ECF complements the E-Rate program.  If you can receive discounts through E-Rate, the same equipment or service is generally not going to be eliglble under ECF.  The FCC has made clear that ECF is limited one-time funding to close the homework and connectivity gaps.  Regular connectivity services and equipment should be applied for through the E-Rate program.

  • ECF reaches beyond the library building or school campus to the home or other remote locations.  E-rate stops at library's walls and immediate property.

  • Services eligible under ECF, but not E-rate, will include:
    • purchasing wi-fi hotspots and data plans for lending to patrons
    • purchasing chromebooks, laptops, and tablets for lending to patrons. Libraries may not purchase devices whose primary use would be within the library building.
    • purchasing high-powered wi-fi access points to extend a signal into a library parking lot, and paying for the internet access to support that signal
    • establishing internet access points in municipal areas, such as at a retirement home, shopping area, or public park

  • ECF will pay the full cost (100% discount) until funding runs low. Under E-Rate the applicant pays at least 10%. In Massachusetts, the average library discount is between 50-60%.

  • ECF is a one-time congressional appropriation, rather than an ongoing program supported through universal service contributions.

  • ECF will have one, or possibly two application windows for equipment and services purchased from July 1, 2021 on.

  • If sufficient funding is avaliable, there will also be retroactive reimbursements for equipment purchased back to March, 2020.

Last Updated 05/20/2021

Emergency Connectivity Fund Intro

ECF Introduction and Q&A : Recorded 5/27/21

 

VIEW RECORDING

 

Workshop PowerPoint (pdf)

Contact

The state E-rate coordinator for Massachusetts libraries is:

Paul Kissman, Library Information Systems Specialist
617-725-1860 x238
(in Massachusetts) 800-952-7403 x238
paul.kissman@mass.gov