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E-Rate Has Changed

News > E-Rate Has Changed

E-Rate Has Changed

 

The FCC has overhauled E-Rate, the federal government’s program that helps schools and libraries improve their communication networks. Previously focused on telecommunications upgrades, E-Rate now prioritizes broadband access and Wi-Fi.

For fiscal year 2015-16, the two separate but related categories of funding have been changed to reflect the new focus. Category 1, according to the FCC, is for “services needed to support connectivity to schools and libraries.” In other words, broadband access. Category 2 is for “internal connections, basic maintenance, and managed internal broadband services (more commonly described as managed Wi-Fi).” This includes “routers, switches, wireless access points, internal cabling, racks, wireless controller systems, firewall services, uninterruptable power supply, and the software supporting each of these components.”

The minimum contribution rate for Category 2 applicants has been increased, to encourage shopping around for “the most cost-effective options.” Recipients of Category 2 grants will have five years to spend the money, but will be ineligible for further funding in that time. Details about the application process can be found here.

More than 60 percent of American schools — serving about 40 million students — lack broadband access. Many of these schools are relying on outdated infrastructure that was not designed to accommodate hundreds of laptops and tablets. In an FCC survey, nearly half of all schools reported connectivity speeds lower than the average home. EdWeek.org notes, “With the rise of online testing, 1-to-1 student computing, and digital instruction, improving schools’ Internet infrastructure has become a national priority.”

Beginning with the current fiscal year, support for telecom services will be reduced by 20 percent per year until it disappears in FY2019.

Concord Technology Group works with school districts around Ohio and nearby states on E-Rate eligibility. CTG assesses needs, makes recommendations and installs hardware. We can also help with the application process (which is now all online). Our partner Xirrus was the first company to achieve full compliance with federal guidelines for its wireless devices. Another partner, Meru Networks, offers an informative E-Rate Survival Guide.

Forms will be due in the first quarter of 2016, but the process can be time-consuming so don’t delay. For more information, contact Andy Lingenfelter at Concord, 440-210-3201, or email him at andy@concordtechnologygroup.com.