The $7.1 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (ECFP) passed as part of the latest COVID relief bill will be available for schools to purchase laptops, tablets, hotspots, and other forms of connectivity for students and teachers. Similar to the E-Rate program, yet all schools may apply whether or not they have participated in E-rate in the past.
Within the next two months, the FCC will open an initial 45-day application window allowing schools to seek funding for future purchases of approved services and devices. Importantly, schools will have the option of having their technology vendor submit for reimbursement from the government rather than the school receiving the funding directly, which may reduce the school’s exposure as far as any potential status as a recipient of federal financial assistance.
Laptop and tablet computers are permissible devices, however desktop computers and cell phones are not. The program will pay up to $400 for computers and $250 for hotspots, though schools are allowed to buy more expensive devices so long as they use other funds to pay the balance.
The FCC has also established limits on the number of internet access connections and devices that the program will pay for: one fixed broadband connection (or modem) per location and one computer per student or staff member.