E-rate provides schools with the bandwidth they need to take advantage of mobile computing devices and to support digital-learning classrooms with online videos, cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools, and online testing.
Recently, the government attempted to streamline and simplify the application process with a new online application portal, but it remains a challenging process with stringent deadlines and rules. Schools and districts that do everything right get a huge payoff: up to 90 percent off internet services and up to 85 percent off Wi-Fi networks and related equipment.
“It’s the single largest source of educational technology funding in the country, and it enables school districts to stretch their technology budgets,” says Brian Stephens, senior compliance analyst at Funds for Learning, an E-rate consulting firm.
With guides in place to help school leaders apply for funds successfully, E-rate provides many benefits to schools and districts.
More Competition Drives Down Internet Costs
Overall, bandwidth costs have dropped 78 percent from $22 per Mbps in 2013 to $4.90 per Mbps in 2017, according to the “2017 State of the States” report by EducationSuperHighway.
Several factors related to the E-rate modernization effort contributed to the lower bandwidth costs. Those factors include increased competition; new options for broadband service, including the ability to lease dark fiber and to build broadband facilities; and pricing transparency, Stephens says.
Since the E-rate modernization effort, school districts have increased access to high-speed broadband and reduced per-megabit costs for school districts, according to EducationSuperHighway.
The amount E-rate fund recipients pay for services and technology is now publicly available, allowing schools and districts to negotiate better prices. The national average discount is 74 percent, according to the FCC. That frees up funds for applicants to spend on other needs such as more teachers or additional technology.
Dedicated Funding Supports Digital Classrooms
With high-speed broadband and a robust Wi-Fi network, schools can take advantage of mobile devices, such as Chromebooks, notebook computers and tablets. The technology can make learning more interactive and help students develop important technical and modern soft skills, such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving, which prepares them for college and their future careers.
In fact, according to the Consortium for School Networking’s “2017 K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report,” mobile learning is the top priority for school IT leaders, followed by broadband and network capacity. The two priorities go hand in hand.
A mobile, digital curriculum allows for educators can move away from traditional lectures toward more innovative, personalized instruction that includes project-based learning, blended learning and flipped classrooms. Curricula enhanced by connected technology also allows instructors to place a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, which will prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs.
Aso, students gain greater access to educational content and learning tools, from e-books to educational videos. Through learning management systems and cloud-based tools, students can converse and collaborate with their classmates and teachers digitally, even outside of the classroom.
Teachers can set up online class pages and create assignments with due dates, which students can work on and upload from anywhere. Adoption of digital content increases every year.
In fact, 88 percent of IT leaders expect instructional materials to be at least 50 percent digital in the next three years, according to CoSN’s “2016 K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report.”
For more information on the E-rate process, check out the CDW whitepaper "A Guide to E-rate."