As a “go-to” E-rate services provider for our valued networking partners, Aruba Networks and Extreme Networks, we have discovered that many hundreds of millions of unspent “E-Rate” monies are still available to customers in the Rocky Mountain Region. This includes K-12 education as well as many libraries, and some child development (pre-K) centers. E-Rate is a great way to refresh aging networking equipment in all or part of your organization and have a large portion of the costs paid for by the US government. Below are some frequently asked questions we wanted to share and answer. We find that many smaller entities may not be aware of this program or the fact that they have “money to spend”. Zunesis can help them design and implement E-rate compliant, modern, and rugged internal network connection (wired and wireless) infrastructures.
The Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program – commonly known as the E-rate program – provides discounts on telecom, internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries. E-rate is funded through the Universal Service Fund (USF). You will see a small fee at the end of each of your land line or wireless service phone bill. This small fee is collected to help fund this program along with additional federal funding. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) writes the rules and standards for this program. The administrator of the E-rate program is the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
Did you know that all applicants who submitted an eligible and timely E-rate application in 2015 through 2019 will receive their funding? Many schools have yet to take advantage of the over $4 billion dollars in available E-rate funding. For K-12/charter schools, E-rate discounts range from 20% to 90% of eligible project costs. Discounts are district wide, and an applicant’s discount rate is determined by the percentage of students that qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch.
A service provider like Zunesis needs to be selected as part of a specific and regimented bidding process. E-rate applicants must conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process. All applicants must select the most cost-effective service provider. The price of the eligible products and services must be the most heavily weighed bid evaluation factor. Although other factors such as local presence to the state/community, service provider expertise on the proposed product, and ability to provide a complete solution (including implementation) may be other important weighing factors.
There has never been a better time to apply for E-rate funding. Because of the increased funding cap, available roll-over funds, and remaining Category Two (aka. “Internal Connections” such as wired switches and wireless access points) maximum budget funds, it is likely that there will be enough funding to support the entire demand in the current fiscal year as well. Also, applicants that seek E-rate funding this year will not have to compete for dollars against the applicants that will have their Category Two budgets refresh in future fiscal years (2020 and beyond).
To apply for E-rate funding, simply follow the 6-step process outlined in Figure 1 below:
It’s important to note that not all networking solutions are E-rate eligible. For example, you can find eligibility of Aruba products using their E-rate Eligibility Lookup Tool.
The following table highlights products that are eligible under the current E-rate program from Aruba Networks as a for-instance.
Zunesis believes in working with our E-rate eligible clients well prior to “step 1” of the above chart to help educate the customer on some of the best available options for their particular environments. As not all customer needs are the same, we feel it is always best to have a face to face meeting to walk through example environments, discuss customer needs, and provide valuable input into the Competitive Bid process. Please contact your Zunesis account manager to setup your E-Rate readiness review today!