How E-rate works
Detailed information on the application process can be found on the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) website. Funding comes from the Universal Service Fund.
In summary, applicants follow these steps:
- Schools and libraries determine eligibility
- There is eligibility criteria for schools and libraries, consortia, non-instructional facilities, non-traditional education (Head Start, pre-kindergarten, adult education, and juvenile justice programs), and Educational Service Agencies
- Competitive bidding commences
- A list of currently eligible services is available on the USAC website
- Service providers are selected
- Schools and libraries must wait at least 28 days after bidding commences before entering into an agreement with a service provider
- FCC Form 471 is filed to request discounts
- Applications are reviewed by Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviewers at USAC
- Services can start after the Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) is received
- FCC Form 486 is filed to inform USAC that services started
- The facility or the service provider invoices USAC for the discount share of the approved eligible services; or, pays for services and invoices USAC for reimbursement
Critical technologies for education
If you are wondering what to use E-rate funds for, here are a few ideas. While every school and library has its own strategic learning priorities, there are some technologies that will benefit everyone across the board. These focus on helping facilities create and maintain reliable, secure learning environments.
Wi-Fi network infrastructure
Wi-Fi is more and more common in schools and libraries. It supports tablets, smartphones, smartboards, laptops, and IoT devices used for everything from educational to administrative to security tasks. Improving network infrastructure will improve all Wi-Fi services. Infrastructure includes access points, switches, routers and edge platforms, and controllers.
Focusing on capabilities like firewalls keeps Personal Identifiable Information (PII) secure.
Wi-Fi optimization support
Facilities can choose to invest in Wi-Fi management and optimization platforms to both bolster on-campus IT teams and relieve IT burdens. These platforms provide 24/7 network monitoring and analytics to help reduce Wi-Fi problems and decrease resolution times. Some of them provide remote support and automatic alerts.
Additionally, the insights provided by these platforms can be used to help administrators prioritize other Wi-Fi network upgrades. For example, platforms might identify which access points need to be replaced and which are still working reliably, or track utilization changes over time to identify a school’s specific needs.
Schools and libraries can use E-rate funds to obtain or improve cloud infrastructure. This capability can help students access resources wherever there is an Internet connection, supports collaboration between administrators, teachers, and parents, and can help facilities save money on data storage.
Improve educational environments
If there have been any internet complaints at your school, library, or non-instructional facility, working with E-rate is one of the best ways to improve capabilities, support all end users, and end issues. Reliable, secure, affordable service is possible. Work with E-rate today to help achieve your educational goals.
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