What do educators want from E-rate? Voice service, more C2 funding

Funds For Learning survey indicates applicants would restore support for voice service if able

voice-e-rateEighty-six percent of E-rate applicants participating in a recent survey said they are concerned about the Federal Communication Commission’s phase-out of support for voice service, according to recent data.

Funds For Learning’s (FFL) 2015 survey asked E-rate applicants to give feedback on issues such as technology use, how complex the process is, and anticipated demand for future eligible services. The survey is based on 652 participants, representing roughly 3 percent of applicants from a representative cross-section of E-rate applicants.

Of the 27,132 total E-rate applicants, 91 percent submitted funding requests for voice telephony services, 81 percent requested internet access and data lines, and 39 percent requested Category Two services such as Wi-Fi or other internal connections.

Out of all survey participants, 404 offered opinions on what they would change or add to the eligible services list. Forty-three percent would restore telephony discounts, 17 percent would add end-user devices, and 14 percent would allow backup internet access.

Forty-eight percent of applicants surveyed have some type of one-to-one or BYOD initiative. Fifty-three percent of participants said they have 1 device per 2-49 students, and 25 percent said their networks support 1 or more device per students.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said Wi-Fi is “an absolute requirement,” but most of those respondents have Wi-Fi networks that are three to five years old (37 percent). Twenty-six percent said their Wi-Fi networks are more than five years old.

Though the FCC has in recent years made an effort to make the E-rate application process easier and more transparent, surveyed applicants said the process took longer and was “much more” complex than in previous years. FFL attributes that to recent and planned program changes.

Two-thirds of participating applicants said they believe the current Category Two (C2) budget cap is insufficient, with 37 percent of applicants responding that a $250-to-$350 per student Category Two budget is needed.

According to FFL data, E-rate applicants in FY2015 requested a total of $3.92 billion.

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Laura Ascione

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