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How E-Rate Keeps Your School Tech-Friendly for Years to Come

April 07, 2022  |  by VectorUSA

Perhaps nowhere else has the creativity, skill, and persistence of technology leaders been displayed more prominently during the challenging pandemic years than in school districts and libraries across the country.

From finding new, innovative ways to connect with students and families to improving digital services across their communities, technology leaders in schools have played a key role in the success of their programs.

Since its 1998 implementation, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries, known as the E-Rate program, has been there for school districts to help them stay nimble and enable learning delivery with funding for broadband and wireless technology. As new challenges arise in the years to come, what can technology leaders do to maximize the impact E-Rate benefits across school districts and continue serving their communities effectively?

What is the E-Rate program?

The FCC’s E-Rate program is aimed at giving schools the financial support that they need to research, buy, and implement technology and network infrastructure to deliver reliable, secure, and fast internet connectivity across their districts. 

This includes new equipment as well as support in updating and patching existing infrastructure. This funding also provides for wireless technology, service, and enhanced network bandwidth and firewall devices in addition to managed support and Basic Maintenace to maintain them.

Ultimately, the E-Rate program can help future-proof a school district’s technology ecosystem. For example, E-Rate funding can be used to support a larger move to wireless connectivity and the cloud, which is more scalable to fit a growing community’s technology needs.

What do I need to know about the E-Rate program in 2022?

While the E-Rate program has been around for decades, the program’s guidelines underwent several key changes in the last couple of years.

First, beginning in July 2021, the FCC increased the funding per full-time student per year to $167 to be used over a five-year budget planning period. The dollar amount will not go up each year during that five-year period, but schools can request updates to their funding allocation based on changes in their enrollment.

Second, school districts also now have more flexibility in how they allocate their funding across the district's schools, allowing them to purchase and implement technology in different locations to help those schools and students that need it the most. 

Finally, the E-Rate program now allows districts to move technology and equipment from school to school as needed, as long as it is tracked. Ultimately, all of these changes allow districts to be more responsive, agile, and targeted with their funding as needs arise.

How can I maximize the impact of my E-Rate funding?

Although the E-Rate program provides significant financial support to school districts to update and replace their technology, the funding schools receive is only based on the projects that districts submit applications for. 

This means that schools need to be organized and specific with their requests, looking at their district’s needs today’s as well as how to lay the foundation for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. 

That’s why one of the most effective things districts can do is work with an experienced partner like VectorUSA. Service Providers like VectorUSA can assist schools with Technology planning by identifying gaps in the infrastructure.   This will help schools to

  • Develop a multi-year technology plan that balances your schools’ technology needs with your budget.
  • Have discussions with Network Engineers that assist schools in understanding new technologies that will provide your schools with the information needed to provide reliable, fast, and secure network connectivity. 
  • Research, test, and demo the right solutions and tools for your technology ecosystem.

Be E-Rate ready.

With 30 (22 in E-Rate) years of working with schools, the VectorUSA team has the experience, expertise, and technical knowledge to help districts like yours. And because VectorUSA is vendor agnostic, your district can trust that you will have a partner with a true consultative approach aimed at finding the right solution for your needs—not our bottom line.

Ready to get started? Make sure to check out VectorUSA’s comprehensive E-Rate guide, Eligibility and Future-Proofing Your School’s Technology.

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