E-rate: How to Broaden Connectivity, Achieve Funding Success

On a mission to connect learners of all ages to the internet no matter their economics. 

GUEST COLUMN | by John Harrington

CREDIT Funds For Learning guide.jpgThe E-rate program has been largely responsible for connecting our nation’s schools and libraries to the internet. Yet large inequalities still exist, and there is a growing gap between those who have fast internet and those who don’t.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of homes with high-speed internet has decreased by three percent across all adults, and by five percent for those who live in rural areas. This comes at a time when an increasing number of users are viewing broadband as a key tool for accessing the information that is important to their daily lives. Simply put, many Americans don’t have internet access because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t want it.

The E-rate process can be challenging, but following these tips will make your life easier and will increase your school’s chances of success.

Millions of young people across the country are facing this issue. Internet access shouldn’t have to be considered a luxury, any more than access to food or clean water should be. Thankfully, many schools are tapping into the E-rate program to keep their students connected.

E-rate’s greatest strength is its mission to connect learners of all ages to the internet. It helps deliver faster internet connections at a lower cost to nearly every K-12 school and public library in America. Furthermore, to make sure the dollars are directed where they are needed the most, the program allows local leaders to make their own purchasing decisions. This is a win for everyone.

Applying for E-rate funding is not an easy task. Recently, the filing window closed, and many applicants are wondering what they can do while they wait for a funding commitment decision letter. If you’re unsure, here are a few things to keep in mind to help guarantee funding success:

  • Verify that your application is certified in the EPC system:

Not only will this bring peace of mind, but locating this function will help you keep track of each of your applications.

  • Organize application documentation:

The E-rate program requires that you keep all documentation for a period of 10 years. The best rule to live by is if you used the information to prepare the application, be sure you keep documentation of it.

  • Review each Form 471 for accuracy:

If you find that you’ve made a mistake, you still have time to make adjustments with USAC, but this needs to be done in a timely fashion.

  • Be on alert for communication from the Schools and Libraries Division:

The SLD may seek additional information from you to process your application, so make sure to be aware if they reach out to you. Responsiveness is key.

  • Monitor EPC regularly:

Keep up with the EPC system and check your application status on a weekly basis.

  • Don’t forget about the current Funding Year:

There’s a lot to be said about submitting your E-rate application. It’s important that all services have been received and invoices paid.

  • Revised Funding Commitment Decision Letters:

These letters and other notifications are issued in the EPC. These will include information about appeals, service substitutions and changes in service providers.

Lastly, if you find that something is wrong, be sure to reach out for guidance and provide as much information as possible when completing each request. The E-rate process can be challenging, but following these tips will make your life easier and will increase your school’s chances of success, and ultimately, decrease the homework gap in your school.

John Harrington is the CEO of Funds For Learning. Follow @JDHarrington.

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