The internet and a stable, high-performing network have become essential to modern education. Broad use of wireless devices in the classroom, hybrid learning initiatives, virtual field trips, and more all impact your school’s bandwidth and increase your internet and network needs. If your charter school makes use of the internet or internal connections, you should be applying for E-Rate discounts. This funding can relieve the burden of shouldering the entire cost of these services and even help free up room in your budget for other important initiatives.
What is E-Rate?
E-Rate, short for Education Rate, is a Federal funding program. It provides eligible schools and libraries discounts on either internet access or data transmission services (Category I) or internal connections, basic maintenance of internal connections, or managed internal broadband services (Category II).
How E-Rate Can Benefit Your School
With E-Rate, your school may be eligible for discounts that cover anywhere from 20-90% of the cost of the services. These factors include your institution’s poverty level, your urban/rural status at the district level, the number of students enrolled, and how many of those students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. You can see how these factors influence your funding eligibility with the USAC Discount Matrix, pictured below.
It doesn’t matter if your school is elementary, secondary, private, or religious. Any school can receive discounts through E-Rate “as long as they have an endowment less than $50 million and are not-for-profit” (E-Rate Advantage). Schools, school districts, libraries, and library systems can apply individually or together as a consortium.
Why Consider an E-Rate Consultant
The E-Rate process can be confusing and complicated. Working with a qualified E-Rate consultant can help clarify the process, ensure you file forms within deadlines, and provide guidance as needed. Your consultant will also serve as a liaison between you and your vendor. They will organize the bids and share it with your school’s leadership so you can make informed decisions based on your school’s specific criteria.
In addition to being your guide, working with an E-Rate consultant will handle the entire audit trail of your application. This helps protect you from the risk of fines or revoked funding if you accidentally make a mistake in the process.
Hiring a consultant is more than worth the investment; compensation for an E-Rate consultant, on average, is only around 5-15% of the funding you receive. If you would like help finding an E-Rate consultant, reach out to us at Technology Lab. We can connect you with trusted consultants that will help you experience peace of mind as you secure your funding.
A High-Level Overview of the E-Rate Process:
- Action Item: File your 470 Form by February 22, 2023.
- The deadline for the first step, Competitive Bidding, is fast approaching. Be sure to file your 470 Form by February 22, 2023, if you’re interested in funding for the 23-24 school year. But remember, “don’t bid if [you have] an existing, E-rate valid, multi-year contract that expires on or after June 2024” (E-Rate PA).
- Once you’ve bid for E-Rate discounts, it’s time to evaluate the bidders that best fit your bid criteria. Consider what factors are most important to you, but keep in mind that cost-effectiveness must take highest priority.
- Action Item: File your 471 Form
- Don’t forget: your school must file a 471 form every year in order to receive funding, even if you’re in the midst of a multi-year contract.
- During this step, your application will be under review, and reviewers may reach out with additional questions.
- Action Item: File your 486 Form
- Once you have received your Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL)— congrats! — and your services have begun to be delivered, it’s time to file your FCC Form 486. The form is due either 120 days from when you received your FCDL or 120 days from your Service Start Date, whichever is later.
- Action Item: File your 472 Form
- Once your 486 Form has been processed, you and your service provider can kick off the process of invoicing USAC for the discount share of the approved eligible services with one of two methods.
Technology Lab Can Help
At Technology Lab, we understand that a long-term technology strategy is paramount as your school continues to grow and evolve. As a certified E-Rate vendor, our dedicated technology advisors can help you overcome the complexities of E-Rate funding and gain an in-depth understanding of your school’s specific technology needs.
We offer a discounted IT Assessment to help schools like yours get ahead of the curve for E-Rate. This IT Assessment includes:
- Network Assessment
- Security Scorecard
- Google Workspace + MS365 Scorecard
- IT Financial Audit
- Hardware Inventory
- System Analysis
- IT Roadmap Recommendation
- Executive Report
Let us help you take advantage of the E-Rate program and be your partner for high-quality, connected education. Reach out for your free Discovery Call today, and remember to file your 470 Form by February 22, 2023!