E-Rate Discount Program Overview for Libraries and Schools

E-Rate funding can help schools and libraries save 20 – 90% on telecommunications services and internet. The federal government's E-Rate program offers discounts on services and equipment that can help connect your community to the world of information on the internet, including jobs, news, and education materials.

What is E-Rate?

E-Rate is the common name for a portion of Universal Service, as mandated by Telecommunications Acts of 1934 and 1996. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the program under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

Put simply, this federal government program offers substantial discounts to E-Rate schools and libraries to help them implement telecommunications and internet access. With E-Rate funding, your organization can obtain more affordable rates on the latest voice, data, and internet services, along with the equipment that enables these technologies.

Reductions are determined by the cost of services and equipment as well as your organization’s level of need. Some of the eligible services include:

Internet and Data Services

  • Dedicated Internet Access: A dedicated fiber-optic connection directly from your internet service provider’s network to your campus
  • Ethernet: Enables two or more locations anywhere in the U.S. to connect through a network
  • Cable Modem Internet: A reliable yet economical way to connect to the internet with a variety of options, so you pay only for the speed you need

Telecommunication Services

  • Business Phone Service: Reliable, low-cost phone services with robust, easy-to-manage features—including free domestic long distance plan option
  • Primary Rate Interface (PRI): Works with existing PBX or local PRI-compatible phone systems, allowing you to increase phone users and functionality without increasing cost; optimal for schools and libraries with 25 or more employees and high call volumes

How to Enroll in the E-Rate Program

To obtain technology services with E-Rate funding, you must be designated as an eligible entity. To qualify as an eligible entity, a number of forms must be filed with the USAC. An overview of qualifying steps follows:

  1. Competitive Bidding: Your school or library must begin by filing FCC Form 470 on the USAC website to solicit bids.
  2. Select Service Providers: After your FCC Form 470 has been publicly available for 28 days, you may select service provider(s), using price as a highly weighted factor in the selection process.
  3. Apply for Discounts: Once you have selected service provider(s), you must file the FCC Form 471 declaring your service provider and the discounts for which you are approved.
  4. Application Review: Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviewers at the USAC verify the information you have submitted to ensure your application is accurate and complete.
  5. Begin Services: Once you have begun receiving services from your chosen service provider(s), you will need to file FCC Form 486. This form notifies the USAC that your services have started and invoicing can begin. It also tells them that you are in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), following all required safety and protection measures.
  6. Invoicing: After FCC Form 486 is processed, you or your service provider can now invoice the USAC. If you invoice USAC directly, your service provider must approve it before you submit FCC Form 472. If your service provider does the invoicing themselves, they will file FCC Form 474.

Becoming a qualified school or library to receive the E-Rate discount allows you to bring modern broadband and telecommunication services to your staff, students, and visitors at much more affordable rates. As a result, your entire community will benefit from the broader technological opportunities. Schools will be able to bring a variety of new learning opportunities to students, and libraries can provide a greater variety of educational materials, news, and more to patrons of all ages.

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