E-Rate is a discount program that provides K-12 schools and libraries in the United States the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect with the world. It provides discounts on essential broadband services to help make high-speed internet access and reliable Wi-Fi more affordable across the United States. Over 4 billion dollars is available for discounts each year to eligible schools and libraries.

Start Planning Now

Careful planning and the strategic use of E-rate funding can help build your network infrastructure and prepare your school or library for the needs of tomorrow.

Getting an early start on your E-rate planning is the first step to the successful implementation of new technologies for learning. We suggest you take the three steps below to kick start your funding year planning.

Get to know the E-rate Program

First, before starting the application process, be sure to review and understand the program rules and the application process flow. This will help ensure the sequence of activities are met and that funding will be approved for reimbursement.

Category 2 budgets

Next, understand Category 2 budgets. Each site can receive discounts up to a pre-defined budget amount. Estimated budgets for each K-12 school site or library branch are key to developing a plan for your network’s future. For school sites, budgets are based on the enrollment of the school building. For libraries, budgets are based on the square footage of each building. Because budgets are tied to an applicant’s discount rate, applicants who serve communities of higher economic need will continue to receive higher levels of E-rate support. In addition, outline a plan for your networking needs over the next three years of the funding cycle, based off the remaining budget for your school or library.

Stakeholders in your technology initiative

Lastly, when planning for network infrastructure it is important that your school or library involve a variety of internal stakeholders. Your IT team can decide what equipment is needed, but often a principal, superintendent, or even board members need to be involved with final approval. To stay ahead of the 28-day bidding process, these technology plans need to be reviewed. Establishing an overall technology initiative can also help keep your infrastructure focus up to date as new priorities and technologies evolve.

We also suggest getting an early start on E-rate with Cisco’s Network Readiness Checklist. Plus, check out our latest white paper Understanding E-rate, Get the Most out of your E-rate Dollars.

More E-rate Resources


Hillary Hall

Public Funding Advisor