5 Things to Know About the E-rate program

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5 Things to Know About the E-rate program

The shortfall of limited connectivity is incentivizing schools and educational centers to accelerate  their  efforts  in  finding  resources  to  get  back  in  the  game. Government programs  like  E-rate  are  poised  to  help  thousands  of  educational  centers  close  the connectivity gap with funding.  As promising as it is, the benefits of the E-rate program are  not  widely  known.  Here  we  outline  5  key  things  to  know before  submitting  an application for funding.

  1.   Understand the Purpose of the E-rate Program: Institutions around the world are implementing processes to make community access to information  more  digital  and  Schools  and  libraries  are  no  exception.  Under  a  1996 mandate  by  congress,  the  E-rate  program “provides  discounted  telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries”. The program is funded by consumer USF taxes on the average phone bill and equates to $4 billion per year.
  2.     Identify the Benefits: There are many misconceptions on E-rate and the first  one is surrounding the value offering  of  the  program.  To  be  clear-  the  e-rate  program  does  not  offer  free telecommunications services. In a nutshell, the E-rate program gives eligible schools and libraries  20-90%  discount  rates  for  telecommunications,  internet  access,  broadband services, and internal maintenance service.
  3.   “Know Your Role” Don’t be overwhelmed by the multiple players in this environment. In some shape or form, all participants fit in three categories. You are either an applicant (eligible schools and libraries), a service provider (telecommunication and internet companies) or a 3rd party consultant (representing either the applicant or service provider in the facilitation of the application process).
  4.  Be aware of the onboarding process By knowing what role you play,  it  is  easier  to know what process you must take to partake in the e-rate program. While the overall process is not inclusive of the details, in simple terms,o   Applicants must first publicly showcase the services they need for their facilities and constituents. To do this, they first file FCC form 470 to launch a 28 day bid cycle for service providers to offer their service packages. Once the most cost effective service provider is selected, the applicant files a FCC form 471 to outline the mutual agreement and closes the process with a FCC form 486 to finalize the contract agreement.o   Service providers first respond to the applicants open bid requests and files a form471 once they are selected as a vendor. They then file a FCC form 473 and complete the contracts with an invoice under form FCC 474o   Consultants represent either the applicant or the service provider and must have a registration number to facilitate either party in the application process.
  5.  Do your due diligence.Lack of research and understanding can lead to misguided actions when applying to thee-rate  program.  Whether  you  are  an  applicant  or  service  provider,  make  sure  you leverage the resources available both on the FCC and USAC website for support.

According to a report by ETS Policy Center, it will take an estimated $15 billion to make our schools “technology rich”. A huge financial obligation that is justified by the benefits technology brings to the classroom. Digital learning makes information and resources limitless enabling different learning channels such as webinars talks, videos and games.Furthermore, it not only empowers teachers with customized lesson plains that tailor to varied abilities within the classroom but it also enhances engagement amongst students.E-rate USA is committed to bringing internet access and telecommunication services to under served schools to prepare the next generation of citizens for the digital world.

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