Effectively leverage your Emergency Connectivity Funds
Feb. 2022 update: Service delivery date extension
Throughout the pandemic, U.S. education institutions and public libraries have continued to experience disruptions related to COVID-19.
In its June 2021 report, “Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students,” The Department of Education (DE) concluded COVID-19 worsened disparities in access and opportunities in overcoming [technological] barriers, and made it more difficult to stay engaged within virtual classrooms. The DE report added that disparities were especially pertinent for historically marginalized communities.
To address this issue, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as part of the larger American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, established the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program—$7.17 billion in technological funding and purchasing power allocated to schools and libraries. As hybrid learning continues its evolution into a seemingly permanent feature of the American education landscape, programs such as the ECF bolster it as a primary resiliency model in the face of disruptions to traditional schooling methods.
Read on for further insights into the ECF and how SHI guides eligible customers through the program.
How does the ECF work?
According to the FCC, schools and libraries—whether regional or statewide—as well as Tribal libraries are eligible to apply for ECF funds. A second ECF application filing window will open on Sept. 28, 2021 and close on Oct. 13, 2021. During this second filing window, eligible schools, libraries, and consortia of eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment. According to the FCC, if awarded funding through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, institutions are given purchasing power over the following:
- Wi-Fi hotspots
- Modems (including air cards)
- Modem and router two-in-ones
- End-user devices such as laptops and tablets
- Broadband services to expand coverage to students
February 2022 update: Eligible institutions must have an active FCC registration number to submit requests for funding. Purchases are authorized between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2023.
How SHI can help
If this is the first you’ve heard about ECF funding, and you’re not sure how to proceed, SHI is here to help guide you.
First, all the equipment mentioned in the previous section can be purchased through SHI. Our vast partner ecosystem and solution practice experts can help you identify the right equipment for all your networking needs.
Second, SHI’s ECF funding team can work directly with your decision makers to provide informed recommendations around accessing ECF funds. Thereafter, our team will further consult with you on how to best use your funds within the FCC-mandated deadline.
Third, SHI will actively manage the full billing and invoicing process. We will coordinate with you to select your preferred invoicing method from:
- BEAR (Billed Entity Application Reimbursement) – where you pay SHI in full, and we will invoice the Fund for your reimbursement; or
- SPI (Service Provider Invoice) – where SHI invoices the Fund for payment, and you only pay for any ineligible items.
Offering SPI can reduce the financial burden of paying the gross amount of the invoice before reimbursement can take place. Customers are required to sign Terms & Conditions to certify they have completed the program requirements outlined by USAC for SPI Invoicing.
Academic customers should consider leveraging ECF funding as the program provides free devices and connectivity tools to institutions, students, and libraries to help ensure academic customers are prepared for whatever future issues may disrupt the traditional learning environment.
By ensuring students have devices and the appropriate access, academic institutions can more easily maintain curriculum delivery if, and when students are required to stay home for long periods of time.