E-Rate is a program that provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. With the adoption of the E-Rate Modernization Orders in 2014, the E-Rate program was realigned to focus on the expansion of subsidies for Wi-Fi networks as well as access to and support of broadband connectivity in schools and libraries. Many of my clients have leveraged this funding to roll out enterprise class Wi-Fi networks, refresh switching infrastructure, and implement next generation firewall devices.
However, the number of schools/districts that are not taking advantage of this opportunity surprises me. Before the E-Rate Modernization order, access to E-Rate Funding for technology infrastructure was based primarily on the percentage of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Only schools/districts with the highest percentage of eligible NSLP students ever received any funding. Coupled with a tedious application process, many schools stopped pursuing E-Rate discounts because it was not worth the effort.
While NSLP is still a factor, all qualified entities are now eligible to receive at least a 20% discount on eligible products and services Under the current program, approximately $4 Billion remains available through the 2019 filing year. This matrix details the discount your institution may qualify for: http://www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/pdf/samples/Discount-Matrix.pdf
Other under-utilized opportunities within the current E-Rate program include funding for managed internal broadband services and discounts for purchasing fiber optic WANs. There is an excellent presentation from an organization called ‘Funds for Learning’ entitled 5 Must-Know Steps to Maximize E-rate 2018 Funding that is an excellent summary of the opportunities available to all schools and libraries and the steps involved to apply for and receive E-Rate coverage:
With decreasing revenues and ever increasing demands for technology in educational environments, E-Rate in its current iteration needs to be leveraged by every institution that qualifies for funding. Peters & Associates has been supporting schools and libraries for over 35 years and can help your institution optimize its investment and use of technology. Contact me at Scott.roth@Peters.com to learn more!