Reducing the Cost of Technology in Education
On-Tech is a full-service E-Rate consulting firm, offering schools and
libraries a full range of services to ensure you receive all the E-Rate
funding you deserve. On-Tech is not associated with any service provider.
In order to stay free of any conflict of interest, we do not provide E-Rate consulting to service providers.
For more information on how we can meet your E-Rate consultant needs, please contact us.
Information on the E-Rate
To learn about the Universal Service Fund (USF) Schools and Libraries Program, the "E-Rate," start with our E-Rate Overview,
then take a look at some common misconceptions about the
E-Rate. For more in-depth information, read the materials from recent On-Tech E-Rate presentations. If you would like to learn more about the rules for the E-Rate program, we have compiled
The E-Rate program, or more formally the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (USF), was created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and began distributing funding in 1998. Telecommunications carriers pay into a fund which is then
used to subsidize telecommunications and data communications for districts. The program has provided almost $13 billion to schools
and libraries since 1998. The program is overseen by the FCC and administered by the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
Subsidies (called “discounts”) are a percentage of a district’s expenditures on telecommunications and Internet access.
The level of discount ranges from 20% to 90%, and is calculated based on the percentage of students eligible for the
USDA's National School Lunch Program (NSLP). For districts with multiple schools, the discounts for individual schools
can be averaged, or schools can apply individually.
What Services are Eligible?
The program is intended to reduce the cost of delivering voice,
video and data communications to instructional areas of schools
and public areas of libraries. Almost all telephone services (local
service, toll calls and long distance), Internet access, and digital
lines (ISDN, T-1, frame relay, ATM) are eligible. For some districts,
some of the equipment in their data networks, phone systems and
video distribution systems are also eligible.
For more information on eligible services, see the On-Tech presentation What will the E-Rate Fund? The FCC approves an
Eligible Services List each year. The latest Eligible Services List is for the 2009-2010 program year.
Priority 1 vs. Priority 2
There has been some confusion about whether districts with a lower discount can expect funding. In order to ensure that all
districts receive some money, eligible services were broken into two categories: Priority 1 and Priority 2. Priority 1 includes all telecommunications services (phone lines, long distance, leased lines, etc.) and Internet access. Priority 2 included “internal
connections,” which includes items like Web servers, network cabling, and phone systems.
If the demand for funding is greater than the available funds — as it always is — first all Priority 1 requests will be funded.
This means that every district, even those with no students receiving free or reduced lunches, will receive a discount on
telephone service, Internet access and any digital lines (T-1, ATM, ISDN, frame relay) between locations. After Priority 1
requests have been funded, the remaining funds are used for Priority 2 requests, starting with the neediest districts.
Districts with a 90% discount have always received Priority 2 funding, while districts with a discount of 80% or less have
generally not received Priority 2 funding. The FCC has been taking steps to distribute Priority 2 funding more equitably,
so it seems likely that fin the future, Priority 2 funding will be available to more districts.
Schools, districts and libraries must apply for the funding. The application process includes at least
three separate forms, and begins 10 months before the start of the school year. Once funding is
approved, districts can choose to receive the funding as a discount on bills, or pay the full amounts,
then receive reimbursement. For more complete information on the application process, see the
On-Tech E-Rate Primer.
If you have specific questions,
Fill out our Web form.
Visit On-Tech's E-Rate blog for a less formal
look at the E-Rate program.
Schools & Libraries Division (SLD)
This Web site is a wealth of information,
and the information is official. However,
information can be difficult to find and
This Web site is less official than the SLD
site above, but is more user-friendly.
It includes many tools for school districts
to use in applying for the E-Rate.
© 2013 On -Tech