How to set up your school for success this E-Rate season
Discover our top five ways to stay on track
Classes are in session, but your school needs to enhance its network capabilities to keep up with the demands of new and emerging technologies. It’s not too late to fund these initiatives and build a technology plan that adapts to your school’s needs for years to come.
The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, commonly known as E-Rate, provides funding for broadband and networking solutions to most public schools and libraries in the United States. Depending on the recipient organization’s location and level of need, E-Rate gives eligible K-12 schools and libraries the opportunity to receive discounts ranging from 20-90% toward the cost of qualifying equipment and services.
To set up your school or library for success this E-Rate season, here are our top five ways to stay on track – and how SHI can help you navigate the process with ease.
1. Build an effective E-Rate plan
Plan, plan, and plan some more! You can never be too organized when it comes to E-Rate, and it all starts by creating an effective technology roadmap to follow throughout the funding cycle. Typically presented as a graphic or document, your rolling five-year E-Rate plan serves as your visual representation of forecasted technology and infrastructure improvements, goals, changes, deadlines, and risk factors.
2. Understand the E-Rate timeline
Awareness of the E-Rate timeline is crucial. The window to submit an FCC Form 470 opens in July and closes at the end of February; this is the first form you file in the application process, establishing your contact information and the new services you will request for bids. Upon reviewing the responses, applicants are then tasked with awarding a Service Provider and filing an FCC Form 471 to seek discounts for services. The window usually opens in December/January and closes at the end of March. Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will review each request and send decisions throughout the spring/summer.
Typically, applicants will have a full year to utilize funding before it expires. Follow SHI’s E-Rate timeline to make sure you are on top of these important milestones.
3. Give yourself time and identify your needs
With your technology roadmap in place, enter each new E-Rate fiscal year with confidence, as your plan to improve your network infrastructure is already defined. SHI understands that your needs may change over five years, so staying ahead of the E-Rate timeline and updating your roadmap are integral to your success.
4. Know your budget and set realistic expectations
E-Rate funding refreshes every five years, and unspent funding will not carry over to the next cycle. Here’s some helpful information to keep in mind when considering your budget.
- Current E-Rate Cycle – 2021-2025
- Next E-Rate Cycle – 2026-2030
To determine the discount level for your organization, you can refer to the below National School Lunch Program (NSLP) discount matrix and budget formula (Total number of students x $167). You will calculate and report your discounts on FCC Form 471.
5. Stay up to date with USAC
For information about upcoming funding commitments, tips on the application process, and other timely updates, subscribe to USAC’s weekly E-Rate News Brief.
You can also sign up for Funds for Learning’s monthly E-Rate webinars. Access free online training and community Q&A, led by certified E-Rate management professionals. Attend live webinars or watch previous recordings covering topics on E-Rate eligible services, invoicing, competitive bidding, and more.
How can SHI help?
SHI’s dedicated E-Rate team consists of tenured senior E-Rate program managers, OEM experts, and vendor-neutral networking professionals who will guide you through the breadth of technology options available through E-Rate.
As an eligible service provider under the Schools and Libraries Program, we focus on assisting your organization with the internet and networking initiatives to propel your technology plans forward. With over 30 years supporting education customers and 10+ years of E-Rate experience, our dedicated team is well-positioned to help you take advantage of Category 1 and Category 2 E-Rate funding.
We support the application process and enable easy procurement and implementation of all equipment and services purchased with E-Rate funding, including:
Making an informed decision on the right networking solution starts with an understanding of the market and a thorough evaluation of potential connectivity vendors. Our experts can help you determine which technologies support your networking needs to enable seamless connectivity.
Network design and implementation
Our network experts assess and recommend which options work best for your environment and customize a cost-effective networking solution that supports your growth. SHI offers support from start to finish, so we’ll review your requirements, design a network and topology solution, implement the design, and monitor the project.
Best practices and remediation
Deploying a solid networking solution is only one piece of the puzzle. We will help you optimize network configurations and minimize costs, working with you to ensure your operations run smoothly and your staff and students stay connected.
From sales and procurement support to installation and configuration services, to technical resources and dedicated E-Rate program experts, we can guide you through every step this school year and beyond. Start your E-Rate journey by connecting with SHI’s E-Rate team for a free consultation at Erate@SHI.com.