The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a $7.1 billion fund, intended to support off-site internet/computer access for students/patrons by schools and libraries. It is administered by USAC (the organization who administers E-Rate) on behalf of the FCC. The application process will resemble a stripped-down version of the E-Rate process. Eligible expenses include lendable laptops and tablets, 4G WiFi Hotspots, and potentially internet access outside of the library. However, because of the process and requirements, not all libraries may want to prioritize spending the time to apply. Here is some of the most relevant information:
- Off-Site - Eligible equipment and services must be intended for (mostly) off-site use.
- Filtering – Like traditional E-Rate, filtering may be required depending on what you are doing with the funds. If you receive funds for internet access of any kind, you’ll need to filter ALL library-owned devices (not just the ones purchased through this program). So if you want to avoid filtering, your best options are probably connected devices (laptops and tablets) or 4G hotspots (but not the data, which is actually the major cost for hotspots).
- Devices – The funding will cover up to $400 for each laptop or tablet, or $250 for a 4G hotspot (data would be separate). There is not an explicit limit to how many units you may request, except it should not exceed the need in the community.
- Timing - Funds will have to be spent by June 30, 2022.
- Paperwork – Patrons who check out the devices will need to sign a statement that they would otherwise lack access to equipment sufficient to meet their education needs if not for the equipment provided by the library. In addition, you would be required to keep an inventory of all equipment. This paperwork must be held for 10 years.
- FCC - ECF Summary Page
- FCC - How to Prepare (PDF)
- FCC - FAQ
- Main ECF Page
- ALA - ECF Info Page
- Second Application Window – September 28 to October 13
There is a lot to the program, so we recommend reading as much as you can about it if you decide to participate. The department is happy to share what we know, and try to answer questions, but we are not able to provide intensive support through the application process.