Stretch your IT budget with E-rate Funds

E-rate, or the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, originated from the 1996 Telecom Act. Basically, the goal of the Act was for all Americans to have access to communication services. As a result, telecommunication companies pay a fee based on their revenue to the Universal Service Fund created by the FCC. This money is distributed to schools and libraries in part as a discount to the cost of Internet and Internet related services. Discounts range from 20-90% and are based on the number of students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as well as the school's urban and rural status. The services covered fall into two categories:

Category One Services

  • Data Transmission Services

  • Internet Access

Category Two Services

  • Internal Connections

  • Managed Internal Broadband Services

  • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections

Category One services are defined by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as "services that provide the basic conduit access to the internet." Category Two services are "those needed to enable high-speed broadband connectivity and broadband internal connections components." All schools should consider applying for Category One discounts, as they're already paying for internet services. A school should consider applying for Category Two service discounts if they are looking to install or update local area networks. These upgrades could include:

  • wireless access points

  • cabling

  • switches

  • routers

  • racks

  • uninterruptable power supplies

  • other components related to internal connections

Category Two also covers basic maintenance of these internal connections which may also be an expense the school is already paying for. S3 provides many of those services, and offers free network and infrastructure analysis to identify upgrades that will help you serve your students more effectively.

Let S3 help you navigate the e-rate application process to take advantage of available funds!

E-Rate Application Process

The application process typically runs January - March to request discounts on services being provided the following Funding Year (FY). A FY runs from July 1 - June 30 of the following year. 

Determine Eligibility

By January 12th, 2024

  • Determine school's eligible discount rate

  • Set up the school in the EPC database - call 888-203-8100 if this is the first time a school is applying for E-rate

Request Bids

January 17th - February 28th, 2024

Use FCC Form 4720 to request bids

Request E-Rate Discount

By March 27th, 2024

Use FCC Form 471

  • Must have chosen final bid

Funding Approval

May 2024

FCC Form 486

Services Completed

Summer 2024

Use either FCC Form 472 or 474

  • FCC Form 472: BEAR Method - School pays for services in full, then submits form 472 to be reimbursed for the portion covered by E-Rate

  • FCC Form 474: SPI Method - Schools pays a discounted rate for service. Service provider files Form 474, and E-Rate pays the service provider the covered portion of the bill.