E-Rate Program Benefits for Schools And Libraries

Many schools and libraries could get subsidies for their telecommunications and Internet access, but they don’t realize it or don’t know how to get the funding. That's where the E-Rate program comes in. E-Rate is a federal program, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), that subsidizes the cost of eligible telecommunications services and Internet access for US K-12 educational institutions.

The E-rate Program helps ensure that schools and libraries can obtain high-speed Internet access and telecommunications at affordable rates. Navigating and successfully receiving funding through the E-Rate program is an involved and tedious process. To help you understand the E-Rate process, we've highlighted some of the important steps below.

The E-Rate Program Application Process

Before you begin the E-Rate application process, there are some preliminary steps to consider:

  • Services eligible for E-Rate Funding
  • Discounts for upcoming funding year
  • Eligible Facilities
  • E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC)
  • Obtaining an Entity Number

Once the above steps have been completed, you'll be more prepared to enter into the E-Rate Program application process. There are six main areas of the E-Rate Program application process:

  1. Competitive Bidding: Participant will determine requirements and program eligibility, and will begin competitive bidding by filing a 470 application online. USAC’s requirement is to wait 28 days after posting the form before closing the bidding process and selecting a provider.
  2. Select Service Providers: Participant will review all bids and proposals received and select a service provider. The provider selection is made based on an evaluation, which may follow USAC’s bid evaluation matrix.
  3. Apply for Discounts: Participant will submit FCC Form 471 informing USAC which service provider they have selected, including the cost of the goods and services. In general, the application filing window opens about six months before the start of the funding year and is open for about two and a half months, but exact deadlines can vary.
  4. Application Review: USAC will issue a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) to applicants and providers once a decision is made.
  5. Starting Services: Establish service start date and be sure to file FCC form 486, notifying USAC that the service has started. USAC will then confirm receipt of Form 486 by issuing Form 486 notification letter.
  6. Invoicing: Participant will pay the provider in full within payment terms and request reimbursement for the discount online direct from USAC using the FCC BEAR Form-472 (Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement).

Once the above process has been completed, your school gets the services they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Applications for the E-Rate program are processed first based on the highest poverty level schools and libraries. Once this initial batch has been processed, those applicants with the next-highest poverty level are processed. In 2015, there was $3.9 billion available in funding. The amount of funding is indexed to inflation each year.

What Does The E-Rate Program Offer In Terms Of Telecommunications Software?

The E-Rate Program is clear about its discount offerings for telecommunications software. The program provides discounts to assist eligible schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access and telecommunications services. There are five types of services the program funds:

  • Data Transmission Services and Internet Access
  • Voice Services
  • Internal Connections
  • Managed Internal Broadband Services
  • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections

If you are a school or library that's eligible for the E-Rate Program, it's certainly worth applying to. The application process is involved and time-consuming. However, the benefits of being in the E-Rate Program and receiving discounts for affordable Internet access and telecommunication software are worth the lengthy application.

By replacing aging systems with cloud-based digital communications, your institution can save money on both capital and operating expenses and still offer increased functionality and features to students and instructors. This helps them achieve their ultimate goal: making learning more effective. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out our online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 Product Specialist.

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