Virtual private network (VPN) components and voice-mail equipment are among the products and services now eligible for support under the eRate, the $2.25 billion-a-year federal program that discounts up to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connections for eligible schools and libraries. Schools and libraries have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, Feb. 16, to apply for 2006 eRate discounts.

School districts looking to install VPNs as a means of fortifying their networks and increasing communications from one building to the next now can apply for discounts through the eRate. VPN

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