Is Your School Making Effective Use of the E-Rate Program?

Does your technology infrastructure need a boost?  With the E-rate program filing window coming up, now is the time to consider whether your school is making effective use of the E-Rate program to fund your technology.

 

The Universal Service Fund’s School and Libraries Program, more commonly known as the E-Rate program, awards $4.15 billion annually in funds to support the broadband and Wi-Fi needs of schools and libraries in the United States.  In particular, charter schools serving high percentages of students eligible for free or reduced meals under the National School Lunch Program are prioritized highly in this program.  In a climate that offers few funding mechanisms to support facilities and technology, the E-Rate program helps offset the cost of technical infrastructure that most schools will implement in their facilities.

 

E-Rate offers up to a 90% discount on broadband, and up to 85% on Wi-Fi services and related infrastructure.  Common E-Rate eligible needs include:

  • High quality, high bandwidth Internet Access
  • Wide area network connectivity
  • Internal network infrastructure, such as wireless access points and other network electronics
  • Building data cabling
  • The services to implement, operate, manage, and maintain the internal network infrastructure
 

With over 15 years of experience working exclusively with charter schools and the E-Rate program, E-Stream Technologies has a substantial understanding of both the technologies as well as the E-Rate program rules, and is committed to assisting charter schools use these funds effectively. 

 

In 2008, E-Stream began working with KIPP Delta Public Schools in the state of Arkansas.  KIPP Delta serves a student population with over 90% of students eligible for free or reduced meals in the National School Lunch Program.  Being a rural organization and with relatively little E-Rate program participation at the time, KIPP Delta experienced significant daily operational and instructional challenges due to unstable, insufficient, or non-functional Internet Access and Wi-Fi:  Teachers and classrooms could not access web-based content reliably.  Operations staff could not access central repositories of school data.  Basic network printing was hit or miss.  The prime reason:  The rural location often increased the cost of reliable technologies and services beyond what school budgets could reasonably accommodate.

 

Starting in 2009, E-Stream Technologies assisted KIPP Delta in obtaining significant E-Rate support for an organization-wide overhaul of its technical infrastructure.  “With the support of local partners we [KIPP Delta] selected during annual competitive bidding, in just a few years we have virtually eliminated the problems our staff had in accessing the network and Internet,” says Scott Shirey, Executive Director at the time.  “As a result of the increase in stability in our systems, our staff and students can now reliably access the network and the Internet.”

 

Getting support from the E-Rate program isn’t without its hurdles, however.  The compliance requirements are significant, and applications often undergo close scrutiny, sometimes resulting in randomly-assigned complete audits of the application process.  “E-Stream handled every step of the review process comprehensively when our applications underwent scrutiny.  By the time we started review, E-Stream already had documentation prepared that was assembled and provided during review.  The process was painless, and the result well worth our investment.”

 

If you’d like to learn more about the E-Rate program, or discuss your organization’s eligibility to participate, please call Ignacio Gonzalez at 415-531-6480, or email us at erate@estreamtech.com.