How K-12 Schools Maximize E-rate for Network Efficiency

K-12 and E-rate

Schools Improve Learning, Streamline Administration With Wireless Networking

Many school districts, administrators and educators are familiar with E-rate, a federal grant program that helps schools and libraries pay for broadband Internet access and the infrastructure to deliver it. However, maximizing E-rate for a school or library is a more complex endeavor — and often crucial for children’s learning and staff efficiency.

Maximizing E-Rate for K-12

E-rate, formally titled the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, was created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and implemented by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in 1997. Initial funding — which comes from a fee charged to telecommunications users — rolled out in 1998. E-rate delivers about $4 billion in subsidies every year, with discounts ranging from 20 to 90 percent of the cost of eligible services, depending on need and the surrounding poverty rate.

In July 2014, the E-rate Modernization Order modernized and streamlined the E-rate program, with a focus on expanding funding for WiFi networks in elementary and secondary schools and libraries. This is an important opportunity for schools to expand their learning tools and improve administrative efficiency.

The list of services for which schools use E-rate is vast, ranging from wireless LAN and WAN access points to OS software and firewalls.

“Hard wiring is not necessarily the way to go anymore,” said Jim Kerr, an E-rate consultant and principal at KB & Associates.

Increasingly, schools are wisely using E-rate to future-proof their networks. They can go a long way toward going completely digital by using Cradlepoint routers and NetCloud Manager in several important ways.

E-rate Utilized in Classroom and in the Office

With the recent expansion of E-rate funding, schools are more poised than ever before to drastically improve education opportunities and streamline administrative duties. Important applications include:

Small Schools

Small schools are asked to meet the same standards as larger schools, but usually without the same technology, resources, and support.

The challenges that small school administrators encounter include: o Preventing and dealing with Internet downtime, which affects activities ranging from taking attendance to vital online testing and 1:1 learning. o Maintaining compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). o Ensuring network agility in preparation for the ever-changing needs of schools and districts, especially regarding emerging digital technologies. “The overstuffed backpack is a thing of the past,” said Jim Kerr. o Staying within stringent budgets.

Cradlepoint’s AER3100 is a cost-effective “network-in-a-box” solution for small schools, enabling cloud management, advanced security, high-performance WiFi, and dual-modem capabilities. The AER3100 has WAN Diversity, which is the convergence of 4G LTE, Ethernet (DSL, Cable MetroE), and WiFi as WAN, all delivered through a single networking device.

Libraries

The emergence of wired and wireless connectivity has made brick-and-mortar libraries more versatile, with a larger range of services, than ever before. Whether conducting focused research or just browsing around, connected libraries enable students and adults of all socioeconomic backgrounds to engage with the world around them — but only when the network is running smoothly.

Libraries rely on cost-effective connectivity solutions that protect sensitive data, keep the network always on, and keep costs relatively low. With the AER3100 and WAN Diversity, library managers can manage a wired ISP for public WiFi and a 4G LTE internal network via the same platform.

The AER3100 also supports NetCloud Manager and cloud-based security services such as CP Secure VPN.

Mobile Libraries / Bookmobiles

Many modern-day libraries are sending their services out into the community —engaging hard-to-reach constituents — by way of bookmobiles, which cannot function without rock-solid Internet connectivity.

The technology needs of a mobile library go beyond digital checkout and asset searches. Children can do online research for homework assignments via tablets, and adults can apply for jobs and monitor their email accounts.

Constant mobility calls for ruggedized, always-on cellular-based Internet routing solutions. With Cradlepoint’s COR IBR1100 router and NetCloud Manager, library managers can focus more on helping the community and less on trouble-shooting the network.

Library Kiosks

Many libraries also leverage the IoT by deploying kiosks both inside the library and throughout the community. The latter is a unique opportunity to meet patrons where they are and offer automated services in the places where local folks visit the most.

Services include checking out pre-stocked books, delivery of individually requested books, and book returns. The flexibility of kiosks, which can be placed virtually anywhere and moved with ease, calls for similarly mobile connectivity. Rather than running cable, libraries use cellular-based routers that are quick and simple to deploy, even with a limited IT team.

Cellular-based broadband through Cradlepoint’s COR IBR650 router provides constant, steady M2M connectivity that meets residents’ needs wherever and whenever — and with minimal burden on library staff.

From in the classroom to out in the community, E-rate is a vital aid that schools and libraries are utilizing to optimize instructional time bring broadband Internet access to the broader community.

Learn More

To learn more about Cradlepoint's E-rate eligible wireless networking solutions, click here.