How Do You E-Rate?

With the application deadline looming, we take a look at the program and changes that could be confusing to some districts.

For most people, working in a certain field doesn’t automatically make them the go-to expert about every little nuance in that field. They have to study their craft in order to help others appreciate and understand it.

For example, ask me anything about Google Apps or Chromebooks, and I probably can rattle off the answer with a high level of competence, but I’m still learning about next-generation firewalls, AP switches and network routers. I’m sure most IT professionals can relate. Add government-speak into the mix, and the learning curve gets even steeper.

Show Me the Money

The E-Rate program, which was mandated by Congress in 1996 and implemented the following year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is one of those government-speak measures with which school districts should be well acquainted.

E-Rate “provides discounted telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries,” and is funded by the Universal Service Fund, according to its website.

Keeping with our modern, technological times, the FCC overhauled the E-Rate program in 2014, phasing out phone services to make more funds available for Wi-Fi purchases. The move was in response to President Obama imploring the agency to improve broadband and wireless access in our nation’s schools over a five-year period.

The good news is that the FCC increased funding from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually, including $1 billion a year for internal connections for the next five years. The semi-bad news is that the program can still be a bit confusing.

Dazed and Confused

The sweeping changes from 2014 means the government-speak daze you were coming out of has walloped you once again, leaving you as confused — if not more — than you were before about all things E-Rate.

You’re not alone.

A quick Google search reveals that the Internet is littered with consultants ready to tell you how and when you should spend your E-Rate funds.

After the FCC revamped the E-Rate program, some districts now are taking advantage of the federal funds to upgrade or build out their Wi-Fi networks. That’s one possibility among many.

Have You Filed Yet?

Filing an E-Rate application can be a daunting task. The FCC recognized this and extended the deadline until May 26. With only days left until the deadline, have you filed yet?

If you need a last-minute check on your paperwork, EdTech: Focus on K–12 posted this list of eligible services.

To learn more about the E-Rate program modernization, go to fcc.gov/e-rate-update.

This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Tarchyshnik/ThinkStock
May 23 2016

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