E-Rate Discount Programs for Schools and Libraries

The E-Rate program, formally known as the Universal Services Program for Schools and Libraries, is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission to help schools and libraries take advantage of advanced communications services. Administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the E-Rate program provides discounts up to 90% for eligible data and voice services, with the greatest discounts for schools and libraries in higher poverty and rural areas.

E-Rate Eligible Services

  • Telecommunications Services – Includes local and long distance voice services, 800 services, data services and cellular voice services. Starting in 2015, the FCC began phasing out discounts for traditional voice services, but many organizations are still eligible for some discount.
  • Basic Internet Access – Includes high-speed, fiber-based Internet services and other data services.
  • Internal Connections (also known as Category 2) – Includes purchases, installation and management of Local Area Networks (including wireless LAN), wiring and equipment.
  • Basic Maintenance – For eligible internal connections equipment.

Suggestions for a Successful E-Rate Season

Consolidated Communications’ Education Solutions team offers these helpful tips for E-Rate season:

  • Be Prepared: Schools must post a Form 470 at least 28 days before selecting a qualified vendor and signing contracts. Visit universalservice.org/sl/ for detailed eligibility, rules, application and deadline information.
  • Be Thorough: To ensure you’re getting all the information you need, review proposals from all providers before you make a final selection. Also, respond carefully and promptly to all inquiries.
  • Understand the Changing E-Rate Landscape: E-Rate funding priorities are changing. Discounts for voice services have been reduced and will be phased out over the next few years. If you need to address your voice communications infrastructure, you should do so before the discounts are eliminated. Now may be an opportune time to consider Voice over IP (VoIP) services, such as Hosted PBX and SIP Trunking. These solutions can often prove to be more cost-efficient – and set you up with technology that will help you move easily and productively into the future.
  • Plan for Current and Future Needs: As you think about your E-Rate Request for Proposals, make sure to consider both current and future technology requirements.

E-Rate Technology Assessment

Here are some questions and challenges for you to consider this E-Rate season:

Consolidated Communications may be able to help you meet the new initiative with our Ethernet Dedicated Internet Access.

Although wireless access technology has been in schools for several years, earlier-generation solutions have not been robust enough to keep pace with growing mobility requirements. Today’s more advanced managed Wi-Fi technologies now provide the functionality, scalability and bandwidth to support an ambitious set of classroom mobility requirements. Consolidated Communications offers a Managed Wireless Local Area Network solution that could offer some relief. Some schools are also considering bandwidth upgrades to accommodate more data traffic.

Would a unified voice and data system like Consolidated Communications’ Hosted PBX offer a future-forward alternative and allow you to take advantage of E-Rate funding?

Consolidated Communications has years of experience managing complex construction and technology installation projects.

  1. Have you considered how you will meet the ConnectED initiative to bring high-speed Internet speeds of 100 Mbps to schools?
  2. Do you need to enhance or expand your on-campus wireless network to accommodate the ballooning number of mobile connected devices you must support?
  3. Is your current phone system supported by an aging PBX that could be cost-prohibitive to replace because physical PBX hardware is not supported by E-Rate?
  4. Are you concerned that your servers supporting core operational programs – accounting, food service, directories – are stored on-site at your facility that is open to the public and not in a secure, hardened data center environment?
  5. What if you couldn’t access your building for a day…or two…or even longer?
  6. What if the bathroom next to the server room flooded and ruined your equipment?
  7. What if the air conditioner broke and your equipment overheated?
  8. What if the janitor accidentally unplugged your server to run the vacuum?

These ‘what ifs’ are all true stories we’ve heard over the years. Consolidated Communications now offers data center colocation services and disaster recovery solutions in two new, state-of-the-art data centers.