ECF Window #3 Now Open!
The third application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund is now open! Applicants have until May 13th at 10pm MT to request devices and services.
With approximately $1 billion of funding remaining from the original $7.17 billion signed in Spring 2021, the third application window offers to reimburse 100% of eligible devices (such as laptops and tablets) and services (such as hotspots) delivered between July ‘22 and Dec ‘23.
If you need help applying, you can schedule a Zoom call with me at your convenience!
ECF and Graduating Seniors (E-rate Central)
As we approach the end of the first ECF school year, schools need to begin thinking about what they are going to be doing with ECF-funded devices and home internet services that were provided to students who will be leaving their schools at the end of the current term. Although no guidance has yet been received from USAC, we assume and suggest the following:
Connected devices that had been loaned to soon to be ex-students must be returned to the schools to be repurposed for students entering the schools next year or otherwise newly eligible.
This process is not unlike how schools currently handle devices loaned to students for in-school use. Devices used at home, however, may require additional refurbishing and testing. Schools that have properly inventoried ECF-funded devices by student name, model number, and serial number should similarly record their return and disposition.
In theory, returned and reissued devices should reduce the need for new ECF funding in the third window. In reality, we suspect that a not insignificant number of devices used at home, not necessarily by soon-to-be-graduating seniors, may have been lost or damaged beyond repair. At some point — before, during, or after the ECF-3 window — USAC and/or FCC may provide guidance on the handling of lost or damaged devices for ECF purposes. Pending such guidance, we recommend that applicants planning to request ECF‑3 funding for both (a) new students with unmet needs, and (b), existing students with device replacement needs, do so under separate FRNs.
Internet services for households no longer having students in the schools become ineligible for ECF funding. Before canceling internet services for households with graduating seniors, however, schools should confirm that those families do not have any other children in the schools that would maintain their ECF service eligibility.
We recommend that internet service terminations be carefully coordinated with both the families and the ISPs. This will be particularly important with service arrangements involving hotspots.
If ECF-funded services are being terminated for low-income households, we believe that it is incumbent on the schools to alert the affected families to the availability of $30/month internet discounts under the ACP program. Family information on this discount program is available in the FCC’s ACP Consumer Outreach Toolkit. The goal, perhaps coordinating with local ISPs, would be to facilitate a smooth transition from the schools’ ECF services to the families’ own discounted ACP services.