Your District is Eligible for a Share of the $3.9B in E-rate funding

October 20, 2016

$3.9B in E-rate Funding

This article is written by Eileen Miller, a guest blogger who comes to us from The Miller Institute for Learning with Technology. Miller is the VP of E-Rate & Technology Planning, and she will discuss how your district could be eligible for E-Rate funding that is going unused across the country.

“The universal service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as the E-rate Program, helps ensure that schools and libraries can obtain high-speed Internet access and telecommunications at affordable rates.”

Is your school or library eligible for E-Rate funding – the $3.9 Billion awarded to schools and libraries for Internet and technology infrastructure every year? Yes. All nonprofit public, private, and parochial, schools and libraries (with less than $50M in endowments) can receive funding. Even if no students are eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch, funding is available through the E‑Rate program. Your school or library can receive a 20% – 90% discount on Internet services and up to 85% discount on network infrastructure that distributes Internet connectivity. Eligible infrastructure components include: switches, routers, cabling, UPS, racks access points, and their software/licenses, as well as installation, activation and initial configuration. Also, newly eligible since FY2015, is Managed Internal Broadband Services – services provided by a third party for the operation, management, and monitoring of eligible broadband internal connections (e.g., managed Wi-Fi). Note that common end user devices (e.g., computer tablet, phone handset) are not eligible for E-Rate support.

E-Rate (or the Schools and Libraries Program) is part of the Universal Service Fund, a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees overseen by the FCC, and funded by the Universal Service Fee. Both service providers and consumers contribute to the fund. Look at your own phone or Internet bill – check for the Universal Service Fee line item – it’s only a few cents per day, but it adds up to help schools and libraries receive affordable technology services.

Applying for E-Rate funding is more of a rolling process than a one-time application event. Not surprisingly, as a Federal discount program, it comes with fairly intricate rules, strict deadlines, and lots of wait time. The complexity of the E-Rate program alone causes some applicants to have their applications rejected, and discourages many eligible entities from applying at all. These factors cause E-Rate funding to be underutilized. They have also created a unique niche for E-Rate experts to offer consulting services. Today, more than 50% of E-Rate applicants use consultants.

Most E-Rate consultants charge a flat fee to provide these services on the applicant’s behalf: complete all forms, manage the deadlines, interact with the E-Rate program and applicant’s service providers, and provide compliance guidance. Some E-Rate consultants provide only Category 1 support (Internet and Telecommunications); some provide both Category 1 and Category 2 support (network infrastructure). For example, this consulting firm helped a northern California District apply for $434K of FY2016 funding for cabling, switches and access points for its 5 middle schools; the District will apply for about twice that for FY2017 to outfit its 10 elementary schools with updated infrastructure.

Bottom line: significant E-Rate funding is distributed to schools and libraries every year, and has been since 1998 when the program began.

To learn more about out the E-Rate program, visit: http://www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/pdf/handouts/E-rate-Overview.pdf.

If you’re considering applying for E-Rate funding, or are interested in using an E-Rate consultant, please consider Learningtech.org. To learn more about us, and how we can help you navigate the E-Rate process, please visit http://www.learningtech.org/erate/.

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