Before the pandemic, many schools were in the process of implementing a 1:1 device for students and staff. With the onset of remote learning, that timeline was hastened. Schools not only have to consider the cost of the devices, but the ability to use the devices while in school and that means having access to the internet. While most have heard of E-Rate, many still do not fully understand what this program is, who can apply, how it can benefit, and what is needed to get such funds. We reached out to Kellogg and Sovereign to get a better understanding of the E-Rate program.
Can you explain E-Rate for those unfamiliar with the program and its history?
The current E-Rate Program evolved from the Communications Act of 1934, a federal universal service program that helped establish the FCC. Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to communications services, initially establishing policies to ensure access to telephone services including rural areas. Authorized under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-Rate was designed to provide libraries and schools with deep discounts on broadband, internet access services, and internal Wi-Fi.
Is E-Rate a Grant?
E-Rate is a discount, not a grant. The program provides discounts of 20% to 90% on the cost of broadband services (Category 1), and up to 85% for internal connections for broadband, broadband management services, and basic maintenance of broadband internal connections (Category 2). Eligible schools include all K-12 public schools and all K-12 non-profit private schools with endowments not exceeding $50 million. In addition, eligible schools must meet the federal definition of an elementary or secondary school.
Discounts depend on the National School Lunch Program, low-income percentage and the rural/urban status of the school seeking support (see the table below).
What is considered E-Rate eligible?
E-Rate is split into two categories: Category 1, which includes the services needed to support broadband connectivity to schools and libraries and Category 2, which includes the services and internal connections needed for broadband connectivity distribution within schools and libraries. A Category 2 budget is figured by multiplying student enrollment by $167.00 or a budget floor of $25,000.
- Broadband Circuits
- Internet Access
- Lit Fiber, Dark Fiber
- Modulating Equipment
- Self-Construction & Maintenance Services
- Caching Servers
- Firewall Equipment & Services
- Access points
- Wireless controllers
- Operating software
- Installation of any Equipment/Software listed above
Do you have any recommendations on how to best leverage E-Rate dollars?
1.) Use an experienced consultant. The E-Rate program is fantastic and helps thousands of schools and libraries secure vital funding annually. Having someone that understands the process intimately provides peace of mind that the work is done correctly and timely as mandated by program guidelines.
2.) Assess current tech plans and projects. A good consultant can come in handy here too as they can help identify eligible components to ensure you maximize all available dollars and resources.
What does an E-Rate Consultant do and are schools required to have an E-Rate Consultant?
School districts and libraries are not required to have a consultant to help prepare their E-Rate filings. However, 75% of the schools and libraries across the nation currently have a consultant. Many of the schools and libraries understand that having a consultant is vital to ensuring they continue to stay compliant with the ever-changing E-Rate rules and regulations.
What are some recommended document retention practices?
All documents acquired during the E-Rate filing process should be kept for a minimum of 10 years from the date. If using a consulting firm, confirm their document retention policies and check if documents can be stored in a secure cloud environment.
What are qualities that a consultant should have?
An experienced E-Rate consultant should have experience applying for grants and funding opportunities on behalf of schools and libraries to enable them to meet their technology goals. So, a good place to start is to ask how much funding has been successfully received. It is also important to work with an individual or company that can help with all aspects of the E-Rate program, including providing training on how prepare applications, helping with preparing the filings for reimbursements, and ultimately making sure the funding is obtained.
Jason Coggins, Director of Markets & Growth