Since it began in 1996, E-rate has helped more than 100,000 schools and libraries connect to the Internet. Nearly $4 billion is available in the program for Funding Year 2019, though the number of schools that apply for their share of E-rate funding is on the decline; applications have decreased by 25 percent since 2015.
Are you ready to start the E-rate filing process?
The filing window opens soon, and schools have from January 16 to March 27, 2019 to submit their FCC Form 471 applications.
Ready to get started? These tips from E-rate pros can help you take some of the guesswork out of the application process.
Here are a few of our favorite tips:
- Make sure you conduct a competitive bidding process. It’s not unusual to have a preferred vendor, but one of the most common missteps schools and libraries make in the E-rate application process is not considering all competitive bids equally. Your bidding process must remain open for at least 28 days, and cost must be the most heavily weighted factor in your decision making.
- Assess what you need, then prioritize. Forty-four percent of E-rate applicants say that their Wi-Fi network is four years old or older, and more than 50 percent will need to upgrade their Wi-Fi in one to three years, making wireless a top E-rate funding opportunity. What tops your list?
- Identify complementary funding sources. A comprehensive funding strategy is one of the most important elements of a successful digital learning plan. E-rate will fund only certain technologies, and as a discount program, it requires that schools provide matching funds for projects. This means E-rate can’t be your only funding source. (But don’t let this stop you from applying!)
- Manage the process year round. The most successful applicants understand that E-rate funding is a marathon, not a sprint. From competitive bidding and the application process to filing for reimbursements, the E-rate program involves many steps throughout the year. Manage your deadlines and document your work to stay ahead of the game and keep those E-rate funds flowing.
You can also visit cisco.com/go/erate for a lot more information, including success stories from schools who’ve used E-rate, like Reading School District and Wayne Highlands School District in Pennsylvania and El Centro Elementary School District in California. These schools deployed new wireless technology and increased network capacity with funding support from E-rate.
So many schools have made progress thanks in part to E-rate, but we still have work to do to help other schools address high technology costs, a lack of capacity, and challenging reliability as they act to transform their own learning environments. The E-rate program is strong and E-rate funding can help. No school should miss this opportunity.
Get all the E-rate tips here.