Schools and libraries around the country hoping to tap into the expanded pool of federal money now available for broadband and Wi-fi equipment and services can now submit their applications.
The filing window for the E-rate program, overseen by the Federal Communications Commission and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, opened on January 14.
Philip “Pip” Colvin, the program manager of external relations for the USAC, said it will behoove applicants to do their homework before filing this year. In addition to raising the E-rate’s annual spending cap to $3.9 billion, the FCC over the past year has approved big changes to the services that will be prioritized and supported. The new focus is on expanded broadband access and funds for internal Wi-fi networks. Support for “legacy” services, such as telephones and pagers, will be gradually phased out.
“It will be very important for everyone to really understand what services are going to be eligible,” Colvin said in an interview. “The changes are significant.”
Among the resources the USAC has made available are:
- An online “eligible services list”
- An online “learning library,” including videos, recorded webinars, and interactive modules on such topics as how to fill out specific forms, file online, and certify a filing
- An online landing page curating a variety of resources explaining the FCC’s E-rate modernization efforts.
Funds For Learning, an Oklahoma-based company that consults with schools on the E-rate, has also posted a list of “do’s and don’ts” for E-rate filers.
Earlier this month, Education Week rounded up the historic changes made to the E-rate in recent months.
The filing window for the program this year will close at 11:59pm on March 26.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.