Closing the Connectivity Gap with E-Rate Funding

Wireless Education

K-12 Schools Deploy Nimble, Cost-Effective Networks Built for the Wireless Present & Future

Today, 45 percent of K-12 schools lack the necessary broadband capacity to adapt to the technology-centered environment of the 21st-Century classroom. A number of change drivers — including implementation of Common Core, cloud-based applications, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies, and personalized learning — are forcing schools and libraries to improve their Internet connectivity.

As the need to access online resources continues to grow in K-12 classrooms, IT departments must address the challenge of provisioning faster, safer, and more reliable connectivity.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented the E-rate program in 1997 to make it more affordable for schools and libraries to improve their telecommunications and information services by reimbursing schools for a portion of the costs of procuring such services.

"In the 18 years since the E­rate was established, technology has evolved, the needs of students and teachers have changed, and basic connectivity has become inadequate," said Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Addressing this challenge often requires replacing old network hardware and infrastructure, which can initially seem very expensive and time consuming. However, implementing 4G routers and utilizing a cellular carrier for primary or additional connectivity often is the most cost-effective move.

In an interview with Education Week, Patrick Halley, associate chief of the FCC’s wireline-competition bureau, discussed the FCC’s shift in priorities. Over the next five years, the E-rate program will phase out support for outdated, or “legacy,” technology such as phone lines, pagers, and email services. This shift will re-allocate $3.5 billion toward the effort to modernize schools and libraries around the country, making it less expensive to replace “legacy” systems (such as plain-old-telephone-service failover networks) than it is to maintain them.

What Will E-Rate Funding Pay For?

In 2014, the FCC set an annual target of awarding $1 billion in E-rate funding for services that expanded WiFi access to more than 10 million students in 2015 and beyond. Going forward, the FCC’s effort has the potential to substantially increase broadband funding for both rural and urban schools over the next four years.

The FCC also will phase out support for telephone service, voicemail, and email, instead focusing on expanding high-speed broadband access. As the shift toward technology-centered learning persists and the E-Rate program continues to prioritize broadband access, more and more schools and libraries will switch to wireless networks and 4G LTE connectivity.

Do You Qualify for E-rate Funding?

To qualify for E-Rate funding, a school or library must ensure and certify that it has an Internet safety policy that is compliant with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This policy must:

  • Block access to materials that are obscene, pornographic or otherwise potentially harmful to minors.
  • Provide for the security of minors in online communication.
  • Prevent illegal online activity by minors.
  • Prevent any unauthorized use of minors’ personal information.

What is the Process for Obtaining E-Rate Funding?

The E-rate application process can be divided into four main steps:

  1. The school or library decides which product or service for which it is seeking funding and submits a request to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC shares this request online with vendors and opens the competitive bidding process.
  2. Once bidding closes and a preferred vendor is selected, the applicant submits to USAC a request for the approval of necessary services.
  3. USAC reviews the applicant’s request and responds with its funding commitments.
  4. Once the installation or other services are provided to the applicant, the applicant or vendor submits to USAC an official request for the reimbursement of approved funds.

All of the forms required to file a request for E-rate funding are available on the USAC website.

E-rate, Education & Cradlepoint

Cradlepoint is committed to providing schools and libraries with network solutions that meet the evolving needs of students and educators.

  • Converged wired/wireless 4G routers provide for strong, uninterrupted connectivity, and are cost-effective, adaptable, and secure.
  • Unified threat management solutions help quickly identify and neutralize web-based threats with enhanced firewall and protection against malicious content, botnets, advanced persistent threats, browser exploits, and phishing attacks.
  • Combined with Cradlepoint cloud-managed networking solutions, Zscaler Internet Security provides a content filtering solution that aids schools in maintaining CIPA compliance.
  • NetCloud Manager makes it easy to manage multiple locations from a remote, centralized headquarters.

Today’s classrooms need fast and reliable connectivity on a network that scales quickly and can be maintained cost-effectively. E-rate funding provides even the most cash-strapped school districts the opportunity to affordably deploy a new and different type of network — one that’s built for the shift to wireless.

On-Demand Webinar: ‘Maximizing E-rate With Wireless Networking Solutions for K-12’

Watch Cradlepoint’s on-demand webinar on E-rate webinar to learn more about wireless networking solutions for K-12 education.

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