3 ways the E-rate program helps level up learning

The federal E-rate program continues to provide expanded access to technology, including edtech tools, digital learning resources, and high-speed internet access, to schools, according to an annual report that takes stock of the program’s progress.

The findings come from E-rate compliance services firm Funds For Learning‘s 12th annual E-rate Trends Report. The report is designed to understand how the program can best serve schools and libraries. Stakeholder input is compiled and delivered directly to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to inform program administration.

Key findings from the 2022 report include:…Read More

4 questions to ask about E-rate funding

Today’s K-12 schools are facing a complex web of needs, technologies, and regulations. Digital transformation has led to an expectation by students and faculty of constant connectivity to their school’s web assets. In response, schools have been incorporating programs that allow for more devices and a more web-focused curriculum. These services are critical, but they come at a great cost. Paying for internet access and securing the network do not come cheap.

The E-rate program was developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its subsidiary, the Universal Services Administrative Committee (USAC), to provide federal funding to K-12 schools and public libraries across the country. E-rate gives schools access to necessary technology they otherwise may not be able to afford. In fact, 87 percent of E-rate applicants report that this funding is vital to meeting their connectivity goals.

There are two categories of funding in the E-rate program. Category one funding provides data transmission and internet access. Category two funding supports the critical infrastructure required for security, speed, and compliance, offering schools $150 per student.…Read More

Cost is still keeping districts from boosting broadband speeds

Cost remains the biggest hurdle for schools trying to increase broadband connectivity speeds for students, according to CoSN’s 2017 Annual Infrastructure Survey.

The majority of school districts–85 percent, to be exact–meet the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term goal for broadband connectivity of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students, according to the survey.

The survey collected feedback from 445 large, small, urban, and rural school district leaders nationwide and examines the current state of technology infrastructure in U.S. K-12 districts.…Read More

Getting started: Your E‑rate cheat sheet

It’s that time of year again–the federal E-rate program is getting underway, and with program updates and refreshes in recent years, you might need a primer on this year’s program.

The E-rate program helps schools and libraries access high-speed internet and telecommunications at prices that won’t break the bank.

At the end of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission voted to increase funding to the federal E-rate program by $1.5 billion. The vote brought the annual program cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.…Read More

How is the E-rate impacting learning?

In the beginning, E-rate focused principally on telephone service, which was the most basic and universal way individuals communicated 20 years ago. While the focus on communication has remained, technology has changed radically throughout the past two decades. During this period, E-rate adapted by broadening the range of eligible services to include mobile phones, pagers, voicemail, email, school websites and basic collaboration tools.

As the program evolved, the definition of “new technology” grew increasingly inexact and complicated. It became clear that E-rate was in need of a refresh. Advocates for change, including legislators, the Federal Communications Commission and organizations such as ISTE and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), hoped to address the question: How do we increase internet bandwidth available to our schools and provide ubiquitous wireless coverage?

Practical questions to ask

To answer this question, we needed to both increase E-rate funding and stretch every dollar. In an effort to make dollars go further, three main objectives were identified:…Read More

E-Rate Survival FAQs

  • What (and who) is E-rate?

    E-rate is a US Federal Program for funding telecom and technology in K-12 schools and Libraries. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under direction by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Key components of the program include:

    • Universal Service Administrative Company(USAC)
      • An independent, not-for-profit corporation that operates as the administrator of the federal Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF helps provide communities across the country with affordable telecommunications services.
    • Schools and Libraries Division (SLD)
      • A division of USAC responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the E-rate Program
    • Universal Service Fund(USF)
      • Currently all telecommunications companies that provide service between states, including long distance companies, local telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, paging companies, and payphone providers, are required to contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund. Carriers providing international services also must contribute to the Universal Service Fund.
  • Where do I go to apply for E-rate?

    Riverbed Xirrus provides a step-by-step guide to the E-rate funding process at http://erate.xirrus.com under the Start Here menu. The application process is described by USAC on their web site starting here: http://www.usac.org/sl/applicants/step01/default.aspx

  • Is my district or facility eligible for E-rate?

    Typically, most K-12 educational facilities, consortia and libraries are eligible, but there are some requirements. A facility’s or district’s eligibility can be determined starting here: http://www.usac.org/sl/applicants/beforeyoubegin/default.aspx…Read More

Is dark fiber in your district’s future?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began allowing E-rate applicants to apply for discounts for dark fiber and self-provisioned fiber. These “smart fiber” options are seen as a way to give institutions more tools for meeting connectivity demands.

Take our quick poll on dark fiber here.

Key points:…Read More

Dark fiber could be the future of school networking

Dark fiber is helping some districts scale broadband for tomorrow, not today. Is it the future of networking?

After taking steps to update and increase funding for the E-rate program in 2014, this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began allowing applicants to apply for discounts for dark fiber and self-provisioned fiber.

Seen as a way to give institutions more tools for meeting connectivity demands, these “smart fiber” options are already being used by schools nationwide. With the expanded E-rate opportunities, the number of K-12 districts exploring their dark/self-provisioned options could grow significantly over the next few years.

What is dark fiber?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) does a good job of breaking down traditional and self-provisioned options in a PDF on its website. Basically, self-provisioned options let schools build new fiber networks without using existing fiber optic cables. Schools then own those networks and, as such, are responsible for the related operations and management costs.…Read More

Petition calls for more eRate funding

An online petition asks the FCC to increase the availability of eRate funds.

The federal eRate program, which helps schools and libraries connect to the internet, should receive more funding so that more schools and libraries can serve not only students, but community members as well, eRate compliance firm Funds For Learning wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In an open letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning, requests that the commission increase the available funding in the eRate program.…Read More