The federal E-Rate program, which first distributed funds in 1998, has provided more than $2.25 billion worth of technology and related telecommunications services, including Internet access, to thousands of rural and needy schools across the country.
Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the third-party provider that administers the program for the FCC, released the Eligible Services List for 2013.
This list, which budget-strapped K–12 IT directors scour yearly for resources to improve the quality of connectivity and access for students and teachers within their schools, is broken out into two main categories: Priority One, which includes technology services related to establishing Internet transmission and connectivity within needy schools, and is distributed first; and Priority Two, which includes basic maintenance of existing networks.
Although the proposed list of eligible services didn’t change much from 2012, the FCC is giving schools until Aug. 6 to provide comments if, for instance, there are services not listed in the FCC’s 2013 proposal that administrators think should be made eligible for reimbursement.
Think your school can’t benefit from E-Rate because it’s already connected to the Internet? Think again. Earlier this month, USAC issued the first two funding waves for 2012 — the largest in the program’s history — totaling more than $700 million. That’s big money. And most of the schools that benefitted had preexisting connections.
As the focus shifts from access, which many institutions have, to connection speed and bandwidth, some school officials have questioned whether the time is right to revaluate what services are eligible for E-Rate reimbursement.
Been a while since you’ve considered E-Rate funding? This year’s list might be worth a second look.