How Libraries Can Keep Loaner Devices Safe With The New Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 includes $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. This program provides funding for public and tribal libraries and K-12 schools to purchase devices like hotspots and laptops for use away from library and school grounds.

The ECF presents an extraordinary and unprecedented funding opportunity for libraries to expand broadband equity to those who need it most beyond the confines of library walls. This is amazing, but does pose some challenges to libraries.  One challenge is that loaner devices paid for by the new Emergency Connectivity Fund require a CIPA filter to be compliant.  Here’s what you need to know about how to make sure your library and devices are in compliance. 

What is a CIPA Filter?

The Children’s Internet Protection Act was enacted in the year 2000 to limit exposure to explicit content online.  The most common way that libraries use a CIPA filter is through a filter that is applied on the WiFi at the library building.  When a patron types in a website name and tries to go to a site, a DNS filter checks the webpage and decides if it meet the criteria to be blocked or not blocked.  If it’s fine to visit the site, a patron goes to the website.  If it’s not allowed, the patron usually sees some kind of warning message about the content being blocked.

CIPA compliance on loaner laptops

One of the more confusing requires of the ECF is the requirement of CIPA compliance even on laptops and devices that are loaned out and will not be used at the library building. This presents a challenge because, as mentioned above, most libraries apply a CIPA filter on the library WiFi itself, which makes all devices connecting to the WiFi compliant.  However, when libraries loan laptops to students for home use, the library needs to find a way to apply a CIPA filter to the device itself, rather than the WiFi it’s connected to. 

CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS Options

Although there are many options to enable CIPA compliance on loaner or roaming devices, in our research, we found two options that we think our customers will find most interesting.  The highest quality option that we found was OpenDNS, now called Cisco Umbrella.  CleanBrowsing is a newcomer in the space that shines as the lowest cost option that still fits the requirements. 

How are CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS the same?

  • CIPA Compliance
  • DNS filtering
  • Installable Software for roaming devices
  • Customizable filters
  • Saving or not saving logs
  • Customizable block pages

How are CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS different?

  • CleanBrowsing:
    • Many install options on several devices
    • Granular control over allowed/blocked sites
    • Custom settings per site
    • Friendly and easy to use interface
    • In business since 2018, startup
  • OpenDNS:
    • Many site categories on filter list
    • Scanning and blocking of installed apps
    • Multiple network and filter customization
    • Filtering per device type or network
    • In business since 2006, backed by Cisco

CleanBrowsing vs OpenDNS Pricing

*Please note prices are subject to change.  For up to date pricing information, please visit each vendor’s website link in the Summary section below or get a quote directly from the vendor.

  • CleanBrowsing:
    • Plans start at $59.99/year for up to 25 devices.
  • OpenDNS:
    • Approximately $20 per device per year (based on 100 device plan)


Both CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS offer CIPA compliance options in their paid packages for loaner laptops.  They have many similarities in how they help you block malicious websites and adult content.  The biggest differences are in stability and pricing.  OpenDNS/Umbrella was founded in 2006 and is the true leader in this space.  With that refinement and experience comes a price tag that matches.  CleanBrowsing was founded in 2018 and is a startup, but comes in at a price of almost 10x less than OpenDNS.  For further research, here are links to OpenDNS, CleanBrowsing, and to the CIPA compliance literature regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund.



ALA’s ECF Overview 

ALA’s ECF Overview CIPA Compliance Link

Additional Note on CIPA compliance on loaner hotspots

The ECF also requires CIPA compliance on all loaner hotspots according to the ALA compliance guide.  Many hotspot providers who work with public libraries offer embedded CIPA compliance and adult filters into the hotspots that they sell to public libraries.  So when a patron is receiving both a hotspot and a laptop from the library, if the hotspot is compliant, then the laptop connecting to it is also compliant.  This is very similar to the compliance achieved when using the WiFi at the library itself.  In this case, additional filtering is likely not needed.  However, if the loaner hotspot is not providing adult filtering, the services linked above can help you keep your loaner hotspots and loaner laptops in compliance as well.