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E-Rate Funding and Libraries: What You Need To Know

E-Rate Funding and Libraries: What You Need To Know

Educational institutions and libraries are eligible for special discounts in telecommunications and internet services via e-rate funding

E-rate was established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to assist schools and libraries in attaining affordable telecommunication and internet services with exclusive discounts on these services. E-rate funding is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and administered by the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC).

In the modern world, the way we obtain information and advance our education continues to evolve, and it goes without saying that more and more, we are turning to the internet and other digital outlets for that information. The way we consume that information must adapt to provide us with the skills necessary for competing in the 21st century. And that is exactly what e-rate funding aims to assist schools and libraries in doing – providing meaningful and valuable (and affordable!) gateways to accessing that information.

Breaking down e-rate funding

E-Rate funding may be requested by schools and libraries in two separate categories of service:

  • Category I (Telecommunications and Internet Access)
  • Category II (Internal Connections and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections)

The discount rate awarded on each individual case is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Poverty rate in the area of said establishment
  • Location of the population served by the school or library
    • For Category I services: discount ranges from 20 percent to 90 percent
    • For Category II services: discount ranges from 20 percent to 85 percent

E-rate funding eligibility

Libraries and schools must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for e-rate funding. In general, schools are eligible to receive discounts as long as they have an endowment less than $50 million and are not for profit.  When it comes to public libraries and library systems, things get a little more complicated.

According to the USAC, Libraries must meet the definition of library or library consortium and must be eligible for assistance from a state library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act of 1996. The definition of a library includes:

  • A public library
  • A public elementary school or secondary school library
  • An academic library
  • A research library
    • One that makes publicly available library services and material suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available to the public and is not an integral part of an institution of higher education
  • A private library
    • Only eligible if the state in which the library is located determines that the library should be considered private

When it comes to e-rate funding discounts, a library’s eligibility also depends on its funding as an independent entity. Only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools, colleges, and universities are eligible to receive e-rate funding.

What does e-rate funding cover?

E-rate funding assists schools and libraries in several areas of telecommunications, internet access, and internal connections. E-rate funding is available for, among other services:

Category I:

  • Local phone service (ending in 2020)
  • Long distance phone service (ending in 2020)
  • Cell service (ending in 2020)
  • POTS (ending in 2020)
  • Leased lit and dark fiber
  • IRUs
  • Internet access
  • Wireless internet access

Category II:

  • Wireless access points
  • Cabling
  • Caching
  • Firewall services and components
  • Switches
  • Routers
  • Racks
  • UPS
  • Wireless controller
  • Wi-Fi software
  • Managed Wi-Fi services
  • maintenance of aforementioned products

For a complete list of services and entities eligible for funding, click here.

Obtaining e-rate funding

Those eligible and interested in filing for e-rate funding must fill out and submit an FCC Form 471 during a specific application window each year. Generally speaking, the application window opens about six months before the start of the funding year and is open for about two and a half months.

If and when the FCC Form 471 is certified, USAC will review it, and discuss with the specific entity the next steps in the application process. Do you have more questions about the application process? You can review all the info and more on the USAC website.

E-rate funding and you

The ongoing evolution of digital learning has led to a steady rise in the demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries. In recent years, e-rate funding has refocused on broadband, with as emphasis on expanding Wi-Fi access throughout these institutions. But even after being accepted as a recipient of e-rate funding, there are steps that need to be taken in order to maintain the access to high speed broadband and internet services.

At Information Transport Solutions, Inc. (ITS), we are a full-service provider of technology solutions integrating voice, video, and data to make organizations more profitable and productive.

We are the IT experts, and we help educational institutions and libraries alike build the right infrastructure and implement technologies to build a safe environment, enhance administrative efficiency, and create 21st century learning environments.

Take advantage of e-rate funding where applicable and team up with the experts at ITS to deliver your students, customers, and community with the telecommunications and internet accessibility that they need to succeed. Get in contact with us today to get started.