New eRate rules invite a new approach: Managed Wi-Fi

The FCC’s extensive eRate overhaul includes a new type of eligible service, managed Wi-Fi, which could lead to more outsourced networks in K-12 schools

Managed Wi-Fi will be eligible for eRate support as a Category 2 service.

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

On page 49 of its “Seventh Report and Order,” a 176-page document that rewrites the rules governing the $2.4 billion-a-year eRate, the Federal Communications Commission refers to a new category of service that is eligible for eRate support: managed Wi-Fi, or “managed internal broadband services” as the agency refers to it.

Before, schools could apply for eRate discounts only on the purchase of routers, switches, wireless access points, and other internal connections, or on the basic maintenance of this equipment. Now, the FCC’s new rules allow schools to enter into contracts that call for Wi-Fi providers to install and manage this equipment—and this full-service approach to wireless service would be eRate-eligible.…Read More

A $5 billion bounty: How to use eRate support for Wi-Fi

The eRate will provide $5 billion over the next five years to help schools and libraries install Wi-Fi and other technologies needed to deliver broadband within their buildings; here’s how

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

Because of the five-year funding cap, K-12 technology leaders will have to think strategically about their Wi-Fi needs.

The FCC’s new eRate rules set aside $5 billion over the next five years for the equipment needed to extend broadband access within schools and libraries, including routers, switches, wireless access points, wireless controllers, and other Wi-Fi equipment.

The new rules include changes that will spread this funding to a large number of applicants, ensuring support for schools that haven’t received eRate discounts on internal connections before. Here’s what you’ll need to know to take advantage.…Read More

FCC takes key step toward modernizing eRate

Voting along party lines, the FCC approves more funding for Wi-Fi connectivity—but doesn’t raise the funding cap

The FCC’s vote marks an ‘important early victory’ for students, CoSN said.

In a split decision along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to move ahead with a plan to modernize the eRate by increasing the amount of money available for high-speed internet access in schools.

The agency on July 11 approved a proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to retool the eRate to focus on expanding Wi-Fi connectivity within schools, without raising the program’s annual funding cap—which currently stands at $2.4 billion and is adjusted each year for inflation.

Under the new plan, the FCC will make available $2 billion in additional eRate funding over the next two years through “improved financial practices” that will free up excess funding reserves. This additional money will be designated for Wi-Fi equipment and distributed using a modified discount matrix of up to 85 percent, with a cap on requests.…Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 3 immediate ways the eRate is improving for schools

FCC chairman’s speech highlights eRate restructuring plans to get money to schools NOW

e-rate-fcc-broadband-schoolIn what could be one of the most heartening examples of putting money where a mouth is, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just announced that the eRate will change in three significant ways to put money into the hands of schools immediately in order to provide internet access and close the digital divide.

“A little known fact about today’s eRate program is that only about half of the program’s funds go for broadband connectivity,” explained Wheeler. “Well less than half goes for the kind of 100 mbps and higher speeds necessary for today’s learning environment. In a 2013 National School Speed Test 72 percent of schools–that is nearly 40 million students didn’t have the access speeds they needed.”

Wheeler’s speech, part of National Digital Learning Day hosted at the Library of Congress, comes a day after President Obama announced over $750 million in private and public investment for high-speed internet in schools. (Read: “What to do with millions of dollars for education technology.”)…Read More

CEOs join forces to support eRate modernization

eRate program, broadband upgrades are essential for students, group says

eRate-upgradeA group of 50 executives, innovators, and entrepreneurs joined the nonprofit organization EducationSuperHighway on Jan. 30 to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the federal eRate program – a move that will help advance President Obama’s ConnectED goal to connect 99 percent of America’s K-12 students to high-speed broadband in five years.

The group includes CEOs from American Express, Adobe, Airbnb, Bloomberg L.P., Dell, Dropbox, eBay, EMC Corporation, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, HP, Intuit, Microsoft, Netflix,, Tory Burch, Xerox, and Yahoo and represents approximately $785 billion in annual economic activity and two million workers.

The nonprofit got a funding boost in December 2013, when Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates offered support for the organization. Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education and Gates’ foundation have contributed a combined $9 million to the nonprofit.…Read More

How to prepare for eRate funding year 2014

Here are several strategies to help you get the most out of the new eRate funding year

At this point, the name of the game is agility, Harrington says.

With eRate reform on the horizon, the stallion of change is still galloping from a considerable distance. That being said, for funding year 2014 you should prepare for things to stay the same—while also preparing for them to change.

Same program, different funding year … for now

With the release of the 2014 Eligible Services List on Oct. 22, the same goods and services as the previous funding year generally continue to qualify for funding. Minor modifications include updated eligibility criteria for lit and dark fiber services, as well as eMail services. One notable change, though, is the new language outlining web hosting eligibility. Now, communications features that are eligible for eRate support as part of a web hosting package are not permitted for funding as stand-alone services. Additionally, applicants are not allowed to request eRate funding for web hosting services from multiple providers. Rather, schools and libraries are limited to seeking support for a single provider for web hosting.…Read More

Why I love eRate: A technology director’s viewpoint

During my career at four mid-sized school districts over the last 18 years, finding multiple ways to fund ever-changing technology needs was critical to my success, according to a recent ISTE blog. I learned to employ programs such as the Enhancing Education Through Technology program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and my favorite: E-Rate. E-Rate began with a mission to make advanced telecommunications and information services accessible for all elementary and secondary school classrooms as well as libraries. Today, it has evolved into a significant source of funding to help educational institutions keep up with technological changes. Districts can now apply E-Rate funds to web hosting services, fiber network services and more…

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Experts: eRate changes certain, but details unknown

Big changes to federal program could mean better access, connectivity

eRate-changesIn the midst of a federal government shutdown, strained school budgets, and calls for education reform are potentially wide-reaching changes to the eRate—the federal $2.25-billion-a-year program that makes it possible for schools and libraries to connect to the internet and give students the opportunity to cultivate the skills they need to compete in a global economy.

Recent efforts to improve schools’ access to reliable high-speed internet have increased, and manifested most notably in President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of U.S. students and schools to high-speed broadband internet in five years. This initiative is critically linked to the eRate program, experts say.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees the eRate, issued a rulemaking process to evaluate the eRate in its entirety, and more than 800 schools and districts, ed-tech advocates, and stakeholders submitted comments to the FCC regarding these proposed changes. Initial comments were due in September, and reply comments are due on Oct. 16, although the actual deadline remains uncertain because the FCC is shuttered during the federal shutdown. Comments will likely be due as soon as the FCC resumes operations.…Read More

Why aren’t teachers using more technology in the classroom?

With all the buzz in the news about education technology, one would think that teachers were integrating cutting-edge teaching tools into their lesson plans faster than edtech startups could pump them into the market, edcetera reports. But according to a nationwide survey by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), that isn’t exactly the case. The report on their findings, presented at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference and expo in June 2013, suggests that technology integration in schools remains virtually unchanged from last year and still falls far short of the organization’s determined ideal…

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Your annual ‘eRate Survival Guide’

The filing window for the 2013 program year opens soon.

Since its inception in 1997, the federal eRate has disbursed several billion dollars in discounts to help schools and libraries purchase telecommunications services and internet access. The filing window for the 2013 program year opens soon.

Over the years, the eRate has undergone many rule changes to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse—and the application process can be quite confusing. To help you navigate this process with a minimum of pain and a maximum return on your time invested, we’ve assembled this handy guide.

Dispelling 10 common eRate myths…Read More