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Two Preteen Diverse Students Using Laptop In Classroom

Smart Spending for Schools Through E-Rate

The Increasing Technology Needs in Today’s Classroom

The widespread availability of the internet has completely revolutionized the education system. Students can practice a new language with a native speaker on the other side of the globe, gain real-time insights about their comprehension while playing educational games, and collaborate with their peers while working simultaneously on a cloud-based project. The world is, quite literally, at our fingertips.

The internet is no longer a luxury feature – technology and internet connectivity is a true necessity. As a school administrator, you know this. And you also know that for your district to score well, have a great reputation and attract students, you need an up-to-date, reliable network that drives digital information.

You know your district can’t maintain a subpar network that causes frustration to students, parents and teachers alike. But this costs money. That’s where the E-rate program steps in.

What Is E-Rate and Why Does It Matter in the Education Space?

Under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) established the Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) Program in 1996. It provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable high-speed Internet and telecommunication services.

When founded, only 14% of K-12 schools in the US had access to the internet. Now, virtually all schools and libraries have access, largely because of this program’s success. (Source: fcc.gov).

However, even now, affordable access to reliable telecommunications and internet services is especially challenging to obtain and maintain in rural and low-income areas. Fortunately, these circumstances are factored in when a decision is made regarding a school district’s eligibility for the program and the discounts they’ll receive.

Unsurprisingly, funding for E-rate has fluctuated over the years in order to keep up with inflation and increasing demands. The annual funding cap for 2021 was $4.276 billion, up from $3.9 billion in 2015. (Source: fcc.gov).

With these funds, the federal government empowers educators across the nation to inspire young minds, providing the necessary bandwidth for classroom tools and devices, allowing them to participate in cloud-based activities, collaboration tools, online testing, interactive learning games, and more.

E-Rate Program Overview

Here is an overview of the E-rate program, directly from the USAC:

“The Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program provides discounts to assist eligible schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access and telecommunications services.

E-rate funds the following service types:

  • Data Transmission Services and/or Internet Access
  • Internal Connections
  • Managed Internal Broadband Services
  • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections

Discounts range from 20-90% of the costs of eligible services, depending on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status at the school district level. Eligible schools, school districts, and libraries, may apply individually or as part of a consortium. Starting with Funding Year (FY) 2019, voice services are no longer eligible.

The E-rate program supports connectivity, which is the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services or the internet.

The school or library is responsible for providing resources such as the end-user equipment (computers, telephones, etc.), software, professional development, electrical capacity, and the other elements that are necessary to effectively use the requested eligible services and equipment.”

How Do I Apply for the E-Rate Program?

Once you have a good understanding of the process as a whole and your district’s unique circumstances, the rest should fall into place. Here’s a helpful E-rate application guide from our partner, Vertiv:

  • Step 1: Do research
    There are some great resources online, like the E-Rate Modernization Order Summary and E-Rate Consumer Guide. Check out the USAC and determine your eligibility.
  • Step 2: Start early and apply
    -Come up with a plan for how you will use the E-rate funding. Keep in mind that schools have up to five years to use the funds.
    -Apply early to get reviewed first and be part of the first wave of approvals.
    -Review the list of Vertiv E-rate eligible products to include in your application. Fill out the form on this page to download a catalog of these products!
  • Step 3: Request proposals
    File E-rate Form 470 to start the competitive bidding process. Review responses and select a service provider.
  • Step 4: Select a vendor and secure your funding
    Once you have selected a vendor, file Form 471 to officially secure your E-rate funding.

Partner With Us to Move Your Education Forward

Are you looking to save 20-85% on Vertiv UPS, power distribution, and racks/enclosures for your school district? Through the federally funded E-rate program, you can extend your school’s budget and make a direct impact on the families in your local community.

Contact us today to talk with our engineers about how we can assist you with E-rate planning for your infrastructure needs!

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