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School eMail, websites hit by eRate changes

School eMail, websites hit by eRate changes

New rules would eliminate eRate discounts on eMail, voice mail, and website hosting beginning next year

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While free options for school eMail and website hosting exist, there are limitations to what these services include.

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles examining the new eRate rules and how they will affect schools.]

Beginning with the 2015 funding year, eMail, voice mail, and website hosting no longer will be eligible for eRate support. What will this change mean for schools—and what services exist to help schools reduce these costs?

The eRate offers discounts ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connectivity to eligible schools and libraries. Now indexed to inflation, the program will supply more than $2.4 billion in discounts this year.

To transform the program into a vehicle that supports broadband, the FCC this summer issued new eRate rules that set aside $5 billion in funding over the next five years for the internal connections needed to extend broadband access within schools and libraries.

To make this money available for internal broadband connections, however, the FCC has made significant changes to the other kinds of services that are eligible for eRate support.

For instance, voice mail, paging services, and directory assistance no longer will be eligible for eRate discounts beginning next year. This change could have a dramatic effect on school district budgets—and it could force school leaders to reexamine their options for these services.

In its ruling, the FCC noted that many free or low-cost options exist for school eMail and website hosting.

(Next page: Features—and limitations—of some free services)

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