What is E-rate? It’s a term that generally covers the Universal Fund’s Schools and Libraries Program. E-rate funding is directed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the management of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Essentially, the E-rate program offers discounts to help libraries and schools across the nation afford and access Internet access and telecommunications. The ongoing need to connect students, teachers, and other related parties to accessible and evolving information has led to a healthy increase in demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries, with an emphasis placed on the increased need for internet access.
How Does E-rate Funding Work?
An eligible school or library identifies the services it needs and submits a bid request to the USAC who, in turn, posts a number of bids on its website for vendor consideration. To be eligible for discounts from the E-rate Program, you must meet the program definition of a school or a library. If you are not sure of your eligibility status, you may need to contact your higher-level administrative agency (state department of education, state library, or other organization) to assist you.
After reviewing the multiple offers, the eligible party selects its preferred vendor and applies for approval for the desired purchases.
USAC then issues funding commitments to eligible applicants. When a vendor provides the selected services, either the vendor of applicant submits an alternate request for USAC reimbursement of the approved discounts. This entire process much comply with FCC rules and state and local procurement requirements.
Does E-rate Come with Benefits?
As previously mentioned, eligible parties have the benefit of receiving discounts on telecommunication services and Internet access, and well as internal connection hubs, managed internal broadband services and basic maintenance of internal connections.
Statistics show that discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, with higher discounts for higher poverty and rural schools and libraries. Recipients must pay some portion of the service costs.
Furthermore, funding is first allocated first to the highest poverty schools and libraries, then the next-highest poverty applicants, and so on.
Which Services are Covered by E-rate Funding?
Eligible services of the E-Rate program are broken down into two categories: Category I and Category II. Category I services covers all of the previously mentioned outlets – all telecommunications services and Internet access. Category II services deal with a school or appropriate entity’s internal connections (consisting of Wi-Fi equipment and managed Wi-Fi) and basic maintenance of internal connections.
To further break down these categories:
Category I E-rate funding covers:
Phased down over 5 years, ending in 2020:
- Local Phone Service
- Long Distance Phone Service
- Cell Phone Service
- Cell Phone Service
Not phased down:
- Leased Lit and Dark Fiber
- Internet access
- Wireless internet access
Category II E-rate funding covers:
- Wireless Access Points
- Firewall Services and components
- Wireless controller
- Wi-Fi software
- Managed Wi-Fi services
- Maintenance of these eligible products
Parties receiving E-rate funding should be proactive in enlisting the proper IT professionals to maintain all granted outlets. For example, Information Transport Solutions, Inc., a Uniti company, may be partnered with as a “one stop shopping” outlet for all IT needs.
Establishing Internet access for a large entity, such as an entire school campus or library, requires several steps. Fortunately, ITS handles all them for you, including installation and provisioning! We are responsible for coordinating all aspects of the installation and ensuring that your service is operational. Luckily, E-rate funding accounts for these support services and imperative functions.
Where Can I Get More Info?
To learn more about the E-rate Program, apply for the E-rate Program support, and learn about eligibility, application forms, data tools, and more, visit the Schools and Libraries Program section of the USAC website. USAC conducts outreach to Schools and Libraries Program applicants through the HATS – Helping Applicants to Succeed initiative.
You can also reach out to your friends at ITS. We help educational institutions build the right infrastructure and implement technologies to build a safe environment, enhance administrative efficiency, and create digital classrooms. Our team of experts is always on hand to provide valuable insight, assistance, and tailor-made IT programs that will help your establishment succeed. Get in touch now.