E-rate Do’s and Don’ts
I’ve long believed that the ancient Romans had it wrong when they assigned January 1 as the start of a new year. While I admit that I enjoy the extended holiday that takes place for many at year-end; for me, the “new year” really begins right about now, in the waning days of a New England summer and at the start of a colorful fall.
For those of us with children (or for those who work in schools), the change at this time of year is even more dramatic since the last days of “summer” mean the beginning of a new school year. Students arrive at school with new pencils or backpacks or shoes, and are greeted by smiling teachers and principals, shiny desks and lockers—and, possibly, exciting new technology that promises to transform the way teachers teach and students learn. For many schools, this new technology is made possible in part through funding from E-rate, the program created to help bring affordable access to schools and libraries across the U.S. Since it began in 1996, E-rate has helped more than 100,000 schools and libraries connect to the Internet. How can E-rate help your school?
Start with a plan
The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the E-rate program at the direction of the Federal Communications Commission, has yet to announce the E-rate filing window for 2019, but it is never too early revisit your school’s technology vision, assess what’s needed, and prioritize. (See more tips like this one.) For example, 44 percent of E-rate applicants who responded to Funds for Learning’s 2017 E-rate Trends Report said that their Wi-Fi network is four years old or older, and more than 50 percent said they will need to upgrade their Wi-Fi in one to three years, making wireless a top E-rate funding opportunity. Is an upgraded wireless environment a priority for you?
Remember Key Do’s and Don’ts
The E-rate application process can be complex, so keeping a few Do’s and Don’ts top of mind can help you submit an E-rate application with the structure and integrity to maximize your chance of getting the most possible funding. You can read all the Do’s and Don’ts, but here are just a few that really stand out.
- Do remember: cost must be the heaviest weighted factor in your vendor evaluation, but don’t forget to consider other factors in addition to cost. It may be that the lowest bid doesn’t receive the highest score.
- Do remember that a minimum of 28 days is required to hold an open bidding competition, but don’t let that hold you back from posting sooner and making your Form 470 available longer. Your application will be jeopardized only if you don’t post for a minimum of 28 days.
- Don’t forget that CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliance is required to participate in the E-rate program. Do ensure you have the right security measures in place to certify your compliance.
How is E-rate helping your school? Tell us your story below. We’d love to hear from you!