24 Oct 2022

E-rate 101

Where are you in the E-rate Cycle?

The government’s E-rate program is an excellent resource for procuring funds for technology equipment for your district. Still, it can be a complex process to navigate. We spoke with Michelle Cirredu, former Assistant Superintendent of Brooklyn City Schools in Ohio, and asked her advice on navigating the process.

“The services that E-rate funds are used for are pricey- even if you only qualify for a twenty percent reimbursement, it’s worth the effort to go through the process. The percentage you’ll be reimbursed is based on how many enrolled students at your district qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. For a lot of schools, this process seems too challenging, and they just don’t bother applying. Working with STS as your E-Rate guide can help keep districts compliant, on track, and on schedule for important implementation deadlines.”

Category 1 E-rate services are for things like Internet Access. Category II services- where STS can help the most- are related to hardware such as internet switches, internal broadband, routers, and access points. Cabling, racks, UPS, wireless controllers and managed Wi-Fi services- as well as maintenance of these products- are all eligivle for E-rate funds.

E-rate Program Timing

It can be helpful for those new to the process to break the cycle up by seasons:

Fall

  1. Review all E-rate programs and the list of eligible services.
  2. Determine what you will need in terms of E-rate funding for the year.
  3. File FCC form 470 to request services and any additional RFPs for qualified services for the coming year.
  4. Update the EPC profile with any changes.

Winter

  1. Evaluate bid responses.
  2. Present potential contracts to Board for approval.
  3. File Form 471 (application for discounted services.)

Spring

  1. Provide additional documentation and ensure CIPA compliance as needed.
  2. Provide cancellation notices to current providers as required 60 days before the end of service.
  3. Get ready for the new service cycle, 7/1. Funding begins!

Summer

  1. Prepare FCC Form 486, confirming the start of service and CIPA compliance.
  2. File reimbursement requests with FCC Form 472 or 474.
  3. File form 500 to reduce or cancel unused funding.

Your timeline may not look exactly like this, but there’s a good chance that right now, you’re in the middle of determining what funds to apply for. There are also usually annual changes to the process. For example, in 2022, there were proposals to create a bidding portal and document repository, allow service providers to ask questions of applicants and then make the answers public, and require applicants to submit documentation detailing why they made their particular bid choices. All of these things can be worrisome, especially when you’re just trying to get the best equipment at the best deal for your school or district.

When you work with STS EDUCATION, you work with a partner who has navigated the E-rate process’s twists and turns for decades. We know how to get the maximum dollars for your K-12 district and guide you through the process at every step. Contact an E-rate specialist today!