What’s “E-rate” and What Does it Mean for You?

Are you a vendor that sells to school districts or would like to sell to school districts? If so, it’s important that you know about the E-rate Program, how it works and how it can impact your relationship with school districts in your area.

What is E-rate?

The E-rate program, also known as the Schools and Libraries program, was established in 1996 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help make telecommunications and information services more affordable.

Eligible schools and libraries can apply for certain discounts (which range from 20 to 90 percent) on telecommunications, telecommunications services, internal connections, managed internal broadband services and basic maintenance of internal connections.

The E-rate program is funded with $3.9 billion dollars annually from the Universal Service Fund.

How does it work?

Qualified schools, school districts and libraries who wish to participate in the E-rate program apply annually, either individually or as part of a consortium. There is a window of time during which they can apply, which in 2017, is February 27 through May 11.

Those entities that apply by the deadline and receive approval are eligible for discounts on Category 1 (Data Transmission Services and Internet Access and Voice Services) and Category 2 (Internal Connections, Managed Internal Broadband Service, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections) products and services for that funding year.

Once approved, schools and libraries that are granted E-rate funding seek competitive bids from vendors for the services they wish to obtain.

What does it mean for vendors?

Start by learning about the program and taking into consideration the products and services you provide. According to the Universal Service Administrative Company, many commercially available Internet access and data transmission services are eligible for discounts, as is some equipment that allows access to these services. Voice services are also available for discounts but will eventually be phased out of the program.

The Eligible Services Overview will give you a general understanding of eligible products and services. In addition, review the Eligible Services List (ESL) for the appropriate funding year. The entries in this list can change from year to year.

In addition, if your company does NOT have a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN), also known as the service provider’s 498 ID, you need to obtain one. Once your company is deemed eligible as a E-rate service provider, you’ll be able to respond to bids from schools and libraries that have been granted E-rate funding for that year.

Remember, bids for E-rate funded projects will be put out for vendor response once the deadline for application has concluded for schools and libraries (May 11, 2017).

Stay on top of potential leads from E-rate funded schools or libraries with 25% off of Lead Notifications for 3 months using coupon code E-RATE.