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E-Rate Discount Program for Schools and Libraries

Overview

The E-Rate program, formally known as the Universal Services Program for Schools and Libraries, is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission to help schools and libraries take advantage of advanced communications services. Administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the E-Rate program provides discounts up to 90% for eligible data and voice services, with the greatest discounts for schools and libraries in higher poverty and rural areas.

Eligible E-Rate services include:

  • Telecommunications Services – Includes local and long distance voice services, 800 services, data services and cellular voice services. Starting in 2015, the FCC began phasing out discounts for traditional voice services, but many organizations are still eligible for some discount.
  • Basic Internet Access – Includes high-speed, fiber-based Internet services and other data services.
  • Internal Connections (also known as Category 2) – Includes purchases, installation and management of Local Area Networks (including wireless LAN), wiring and equipment.
  • Basic Maintenance – For eligible internal connections equipment. 

Suggestions for a Successful E-Rate Season

FairPoint’s Education Solutions team offers these helpful tips for E-Rate season:

  • Be Prepared: Schools must post a Form 470 at least 28 days before selecting a qualified vendor and signing contracts. Visit universalservice.org/sl/ for detailed eligibility, rules, application and deadline information.
  • Be Thorough: To ensure you’re getting all the information you need, review proposals from all providers before you make a final selection. Also, respond carefully and promptly to all inquiries.
  • Understand the Changing E-Rate Landscape: E-Rate funding priorities are changing. Discounts for voice services have been reduced and will be phased out over the next few years. If you need to address your voice communications infrastructure, you should do so before the discounts are eliminated. Now may be an opportune time to consider Voice over IP (VoIP) services, such as Hosted PBX and SIP Trunking. These solutions can often prove to be more cost-efficient – and set you up with technology that will help you move easily and productively into the future.
  • Plan for Current and Future Needs: As you think about your E-Rate Request for Proposals, make sure to consider both current and future technology requirements.

E-Rate Technology Assessment

Here are some questions and challenges for you to consider this E-Rate season:

  1. Have you considered how you will meet the ConnectED initiative to bring high-speed Internet speeds of 100 Mbps to schools?

FairPoint may be able to help you meet the new initiative with our Ethernet Dedicated Internet Access.

  1. Do you need to enhance or expand your on-campus wireless network to accommodate the ballooning number of mobile connected devices you must support?

Although wireless access technology has been in schools for several years, earlier-generation solutions have not been robust enough to keep pace with growing mobility requirements. Today’s more advanced managed Wi-Fi technologies now provide the functionality, scalability and bandwidth to support an ambitious set of classroom mobility requirements. FairPoint recently introduced a Managed Wireless Local Area Network solution that could offer some relief. Some schools are also considering bandwidth upgrades to accommodate more data traffic.

  1. Is your current phone system supported by an aging PBX that could be cost-prohibitive to replace because physical PBX hardware is not supported by E-Rate?

Would a unified voice and data system like FairPoint’s Hosted PBX offer a future-forward alternative and allow you to take advantage of E-Rate funding?

  1. Do you already have an on-campus video security monitoring system? If you have ordered security cameras from a large manufacturer, do you have someone who knows how to properly install them?

FairPoint has years of experience managing complex construction and technology installation projects.

  1. Are you concerned that your servers supporting core operational programs – accounting, food service, directories – are stored on-site at your facility that is open to the public and not in a secure, hardened data center environment? What if you couldn’t access your building for a day…or two…or even longer? What if the bathroom next to the server room flooded and ruined your equipment? What if the air conditioner broke and your equipment overheated? What if the janitor accidentally unplugged your server to run the vacuum?

These ‘what ifs’ are all true stories we’ve heard over the years. FairPoint now offers data center colocation services and disaster recovery solutions in two new, state-of-the-art data centers.

E-Rate Case Studies

The following case studies illustrate how schools are using FairPoint’s advanced technology services to improve performance and efficiency while positioning them for the future: 

Monadnock Regional School District, Swanzey, N.H. 

“E-rate voice and data subsidies helped reduce our overall cost for a new Hosted PBX system and made it doable for our budget,” said Neal Richardson, CISSP, Director of Technology and Emergency Management for Monadnock Regional School District. “E-rate didn’t support us in replacing on-site PBX equipment, so this ability to get some funding for a new solution made moving to Hosted PBX that much more appealing.”

“With the FairPoint Hosted PBX, there was no hardware to replace or maintain, and that ultimately cost less,” Richardson said. “I no longer had to worry about buying $20,000-30,000 worth of PBX equipment to get me by in the event something happened to the system at one of our schools.”

Lamoille North Supervisory Union, Lamoille County, Vt. 

lamoille-north-supervisory-union

According to Robin Gouin in the Technology & Support department at Lamoille Union High School, “It has revolutionized the way we do things.” The school system has benefitted from connectivity that has changed the way teachers teach and students learn. Online interaction offers a more collaborative learning experience. And, everyone has constant and easy access to a wide range of online resources both in the classroom and at home.

Additional E-Rate Resources

If you would like to learn more about the E-Rate program, check on the latest E-Rate news, or start the application process, visit www.usac.org.

Our Education Solutions Team would also love to learn more about your technology challenges and tell you about the new advanced services we’ve brought to market. We hope to work with you to find the right solutions at the right price. Speak with one of our education technology experts today

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