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Expert Offers Tips to Schools on Maximizing New E-rate Funding

Expert Offers Tips to Schools on Maximizing New E-rate Funding

Towards the end of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission approved a $1.5 billion increase in the E-rate's annual fund, and schools are taking advantage of it. 

The increase is expected "to allow 101,000 schools and 16,000 libraries to expand their high-speed broadband and WiFi access," according to an article on 

According to Ronald Sheps, director of public sector programs at Westcon, "that extra funding has been guaranteed for the next five years, and much of it is expected to allow Priority 2 funds to go further."

At a recent webinar hosted by Carousel Industries, "How to Maximize Your E-Rate Investment", Sheps shared his views on what districts should do with their funding. 

"E-rate has traditionally provided for discounts of between 20 percent and 90 percent of eligible costs for telecommunications-related services," the article said. "Schools qualify for the discounts based on the number of students they have who are eligible for free and reduced lunches. The program has two levels of eligible services. Priority 1, which is always funded first, covers telecom carrier and fiber services as well as Internet access. Priority 2 provides discounts on services related to internal connections and their basic maintenance. If money remains from the pool of funding of Priority 1 services, Priority 2 services are funded, beginning with the neediest applicants first."

Up until now, Sheps said, "Priority 1 requests have consumed almost all of the E-rate funding; in 2014 Priority 1 requests were the only ones fulfilled in the program." Now, "the newly approved money is expected to cover all eligible requests from Priority 1 and stretch well into Priority 2, Sheps noted. He added that the top discount category for Priority 2 services will now be 85 percent instead of 90 percent in order to spread the funding more broadly."

He also said every school will get $9,200 "regardless of the need." He also said that "some funding will expire" and "all applications will speed up."

"While adding to the overall disbursement fund, the revised program ends eligibility for a number of staples on the services list," he said. "These include Web hosting, voicemail, e-mail and texting. Legacy voice services such as local and long distance phone service, Centrex, voice over IP and wireless phone services will be phased out at the pace of 20 percent per year."

Read the full story and comment below. Readers can access an on-demand viewing of the webinar here.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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