Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Asset Management and Audit Preparedness Guide

By: Torsten George | 9/17/2021 | 5 min read

For the many schools still struggling to meet the challenges of remote learning, late August brought welcome news: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a second window to submit projects for coverage under the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program.

Opening on September 28, 2021, and running until October 13, 2021, this new filing period allows eligible schools, libraries, and consortia of schools and libraries to request additional funding for approved equipment and services purchased between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.

Designed to minimize the “Homework Gap” caused by the lack of devices and broadband connectivity in many home learning environments, this $7-billion federal investment will support students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise not be sufficiently enabled to engage in off-campus studies.

For the IT teams at schools and libraries receiving ECF support or other federal and state funding, ensuring they are aware of — and able to meet — ongoing program requirements is critical, as applicants are ultimately responsible for compliance. 

Who is eligible for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program?

Schools, libraries, and consortia of schools and libraries (i.e., regional or statewide groups of schools or libraries applying jointly) that are eligible for support under the FCC E-rate program are eligible for ECF support, as are Tribal libraries, which are eligible under the Library Services and Technology Act.

Schools and libraries that are not current E-rate participants can also request ECF funding but must be prepared to demonstrate E-rate program eligibility during the application review.

Which equipment is eligible for ECF funding?

For eligible schools and libraries, the ECF program will cover reasonable costs for off-campus use of connected devices (laptop and tablet computers), including Chromebooks and Windows machines.

The program will reimburse schools, school districts, and libraries with a maximum of $400 for each laptop or tablet and a maximum of $250 for Wi-Fi hotspots, modems (including air cards), routers, or devices that combine a modem and router.

For additional details, including broadband service eligibility, please see the FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund page.

What are the ECF program funding requirements?

 In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must:

  • Certify that funds are used for unmet needs only and only seek support for eligible equipment/services for students, school staff, and library patrons who otherwise lack access to engage in remote learning.
  • Maintain inventories of devices and services purchased with the program that include device type, make/model, user assignment, assignment dates, and equipment status (missing, lost, or damaged).
  • Assure 10-year data retention.
  • Show CIPA compliance for school- or library-owned computers when receiving ECF or E-rate support.

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the administrator of the ECF Program and will review applications. Interested schools and libraries can find more information and apply at emergencyconnectivityfund.org.

ECF Inventory Tracking and Audit Preparedness

Asset management and audit preparedness strategies should be considered alongside equipment purchases utilizing ECF or other federal or state program funds. IT teams should seek solutions that offer customized asset tracking and reporting to satisfy the needs of individual programs, and endpoint telemetry that provides continuous device data, even off-network.

Using the Absolute Platform for ECF Asset Management and Audit Preparedness

Over 10,000 schools and districts rely on the Absolute Platform for Endpoint Resilience® to manage their device inventory and maintain audit preparedness. With a continuous connection to every device and a full suite of asset management and remote device management capabilities, Absolute helps IT teams to meet, maintain, and prove compliance with ECF, CIPA, and other federal and state requirements and regulations.

FCC ECF Requirements How Absolute Helps Absolute Capabilities
Record Retention and Inventory Management Requirements

Asset inventories of devices and services purchased with program support must be maintained for a 10-year period and include:

  • device or equipment type
  • device or equipment make/model
  • device or equipment serial number
  • full name of the person to whom the device was provided
  • dates the device or other equipment was loaned out and returned
  • the dates on which participants were notified that a device or other equipment was missing, lost, or damaged

For complete details, visit USAC ECF Record Retention Requirements.

  • Monitor, manage, and track every device — Chromebook, PC, or Mac — from a single, cloud-based console
  • Automatically capture required attributes — with audit-ready reports
  • Easily monitor and report on asset health, location and usage by funding initiative or any other required classification
  • Easily track missing, lost, or damaged devices
  • Custom hardware/software asset inventory reports
  • Custom Device Groups and reports
  • Dark Device report
ECF CIPA Compliance Requirements

Devices purchased under FCC ECF or E-rate programs must be used in compliance with CIPA; or, at a minimum, participants must certify that actions necessary to comply with CIPA were undertaken.

For complete details, visit USAC ECF CIPA Requirements.

  • Maintain full visibility into which online resources students and patrons are accessing
  • Know when established web filter policies and controls are bypassed and take appropriate action
  • Monitor web usage patterns and web application adoption
  • Detailed web usage reports with granular historic insights
ECF Remote Learning Sufficiency Assessment Requirements

Participants need to assess if a device is no longer able to support remote learning initiatives

  • Automatically monitor, assess, and report on device health
  • Custom hardware/software asset inventory reports

Beyond Emergency Connectivity Fund Compliance

Given the continued influx of new devices, platforms like Absolute that are also capable of streamlining remote management across the entire fleet through automation can provide much needed efficiency gains. And, with device loss an ever-escalating concern, Absolute's ability to maintain visibility and control through precise geolocation and the ability to freeze or wipe machines remotely should also be a priority.

The Absolute Platform for Endpoint Resilience®

Absolute provides a secure connection to every endpoint, delivering unmatched visibility and intelligence into devices, data, and applications across the entire endpoint environment.

Firmware-embedded in almost every Windows device — and easily extended to Chromebooks and Macs — Absolute can be activated remotely for instant access to a continuous stream of data from every device and a powerful suite of tools for managing assets and remediating threats.

 

Find out how Absolute can streamline device management and compliance in your organization >> 

 

This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice regarding the ECF program or other legal requirements, please consult with legal counsel.

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