Recent updates to E-rate, which put more focus on funding high-speed internet and network protection tools, have helped K–12 schools reallocate resources to improve other focus areas.
K–12 schools now have much more flexibility to fund projects, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent announcement to make internet access a priority, combined with an increase to the annual E-rate cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.
With the cap increase, schools that were not previously eligible for category 2 funding, which was prioritized for schools with the most need, were now able to apply for additional funds.
“When E-rate 2.0 was announced, we realized we would be able to leverage that to significantly speed up our vision,” says Escambia County School District, Fla., Technology Services Coordinator Jim Branton. “We were at an 80 percent discount at that time. That quintupled our buying power.”
E-Rate Opens Local Resources for Other K–12 Projects
Infrastructure isn’t sexy. “But without good internet, the laptop that you have won’t work,” says Hector Reyna, CTO of Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas.
Because Socorro ISD receives $7 million in E-rate funds every five years to refresh its networking equipment (all of its schools have 100-gigbit-per-second internet access), the district is able to devote local resources to laptops for students. It even provides hotspots to roughly 1,000 students who don’t have internet access at home. “The classroom is now 24/7,” says Reyna.
“It has a ripple effect,” says Anya Klinginsmith, senior purchasing agent at Escambia County School District. “Because we received E-rate funding, we were able to build out our network, which meant we were able to support more devices, which in turn enabled us to support more personalized learning. It also gave us more visibility among vendors to approach us and partner with us to provide better products at a lower cost.”
To learn more about using E–rate to improve K–12 infrastructure, check out “E-Rate Improvements Support Easier and Faster IT Upgrades.”