When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modernized the E-Rate program in 2014, it focused on the following changes: ensuring that schools and districts have affordable broadband and Wi-Fi; maximizing E-Rate spending; and making the administration of the E-Rate program and the application process faster, simpler and more efficient.
According to Jon Wilkins, the FCC’s managing director, the focus is on helping the nation’s schools get the bandwidth they need to take advantage of mobile devices and embrace a more interactive and individualized digital learning curriculum.
Many schools and districts, particularly in rural and urban areas, rely on the program to provide the Internet services students need. When applying for E-Rate funding, administrators should consider some best practices and tips.
- Read the E-Rate Modernization Orders. To understand the full scope and reasoning behind the FCC’s changes, read the two Modernization Orders, which are available on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website, says Mel Blackwell, vice president of USAC’s Schools and Libraries Division.
- Start early. Rather than wait until the last minute, applicants should start the application process early and ask USAC any questions they have about E-Rate. This approach provides ample time to understand the program and to ensure that the application is filled out correctly, which speeds up the funding process, Blackwell says.
Filing early also has its perks. Schools and districts that apply first get reviewed first; if their application is filed correctly, they will receive funding in the first wave of approvals.
- Plan for several years into the future. The FCC no longer requires schools to submit a technology plan to get funded, but it is still important for schools and districts to look beyond the current E-Rate funding cycle and plan two to three years out, so they can prioritize projects and apply for funding accordingly.
- Use USAC’s free educational resources. The USAC website includes a library full of print resources, educational videos and tutorials that walk you through each step of the application process. School and district leaders can also sign up for training events throughout the country; take part in live webinars; or schedule one-on-one meetings that can be held in person, over the phone or through video conferencing, Blackwell says. Applicants with questions can also contact USAC’s call center.
For more on E-Rate's modernization and how it will affect your school, read CDW’s white paper Get Ready for E-Rate 2.0