Educational institutions are heavily dependent upon technology to support today’s digital learning environments. At a minimum, schools need high-speed internet access, telecommunications services, and internal connections in order for faculty and students to access the digital resources they need. In addition, your teachers and students expect a secure environment in which to teach and learn. When resources and budgets are constrained, E-rate, a federally funded program, can help schools obtain the technologies necessary to facilitate an effective and modern educational environment.
What is E-rate?
In 1997, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a subsidiary known as the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to manage and distribute federal budget dollars to schools and libraries. Initially, USAC was responsible for distributing $2.25 billion. Today, USAC commands a budget of $8(+/-) billion available for allocation towards two categories of services:
- Category One: Data Transmission Services and/or Internet Access
- Category Two: Internal Connections (IC), Managed Internal Broadband Services (MIBS), and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections (BMIC)
The funds are accessible to nearly all schools and libraries nationwide and can be a reliable financial source to support critical technology initiatives.
How does E-rate work?
In order to receive E-rate funds, a school must identify eligible technology goods and services it needs to create a request or RFP. These RFPs are submitted to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and posted to its website. Once posted, RFPs are open to competitive bidding from services vendors for a minimum of 28 days. Schools review vendor bids and select vendors based on the most cost-effective pricing products and services. Once a vendor is selected, the school sends its final request to USAC for approval and the reimbursement process begins.How can your school get started with E-rate?
There are several ways:
- Many schools have peer networks with whom they discuss service providers and consulting experiences. Find a Financial Administrator or Technical Contact in a school that has deployed a successful E-rate project is a good place to begin.
- Find an E-rate consultant who can take you through the process. They are trained to make the application process easy for you.
- Partner with an experienced service provider who understands the complexities of the E-rate program and knows what technologies work best for schools and will be covered under the program.
- Finally, do your homework! Start with the E-rate Information and Resources Hub for Schools.
There are enough federal support dollars and resources (experienced consultants and service providers) available to provide significant assistance to achieve your technical goals. These resources, coupled with E-rate funds, can help you modernize your school's network and provide a better, more secure learning experience for your students and staff.
Systems Engineering is currently having needs assessment and network design discussions with schools to help them pull together a budget, bill of materials, and scope of work. If you’d to have this discussion specific to your school, get in touch with us at 888.624.6737 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marco Gasbarrone has been with Systems Engineering since 2010. He has served as a trusted adviser for clients with a focus on E-rate funding within the education sector. He helps schools use technology to create reliable and secure learning environments.