E-Rate Funding May Be Available.
Your school or library may be able to receive discounts on advanced telecommunications services. How?
The federal program E-Rate provides discounts on eligible telecommunications, equipment, products, and services for eligible schools and libraries. Dice Communications is experienced in helping schools and libraries utilize E-Rate funding. Contact us to learn about eligible products and services.
What is E-Rate?
E-Rate is a discount program, not a grant. For example if a school or library qualifies at 80 percent, that school or library would be responsible for 20 percent of the total cost, and USAC would pay the other 80 percent. Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent of the cost of eligible Category 2 services. “E-Rate” is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, and it was established by the Communications Act of 1996. It is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Funding is committed in a two-step application process. The first form filed is the Form 470 which describes the services requested and starts a 28-day bidding period. Once the school or library has reviewed proposals and chosen one or more service providers, the second form filed is the Form 471 which describes the services ordered and the specific amounts of discounts requested.
Am I Eligible?
In order to receive E-Rate discounts, schools and libraries must meet certain eligibility criteria. The discount percentage for an applicant is determined by a matrix based on the percentage of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program and the urban/rural status. Please visit the USAC website for more information about eligibility and discount levels.
How Can Dice Communications Help?
We have worked in many educational institutions nationwide, and we have developed specific programs to address your unique needs. We are active in over 100 districts, and 70 percent of our business is K-12. Our commitment to education also includes understanding the resources available to districts as they seek to maximize their technology budget. This includes understanding E-Rate.
In compliance with SLD rules, we cannot do E-Rate consulting; but we’d be happy to talk with you about our products and services that are eligible for E-Rate funding. If chosen as your service provider, we can help you navigate the remainder of the E-Rate process. Dice Communications is an eligible service provider and has a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN).
To learn more about how we can serve you, contact a Dice representative today.
Please note that information contained within this section is intended to be only a general interpretation of E-Rate rules and procedures. Anyone interested in the E-rate program can obtain the actual rules and regulations of the program at http://www.usac.org/sl/.
E-rate Frequently Asked Questions:
Before Getting Started: What materials should I have compiled before I begin filling out my 2015-16 Form 471?
Before you begin your online Form 471, assemble the materials you'll need to make the process as efficient as possible. USAC has a video to help applicants with what information to collect before you begin. Suggested materials include:
- Invoices and contracts from your service providers
- 2014-15 Form 470
- Previous funding year's Form 471s
- Student population for each school and the number of students per school that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program
- Talk to your tech director and ask for your district's broadband network diagram. It should identify the number of connections and the bandwidths for your district's Internet and Transport (WAN) connections. This will help you on the Category 1, Item 21 portion of the application.
- Also, in preparation for the Connectivity Questions, ask your tech director for their perspective on your district or school's LAN/WLAN sufficiency!
Billed Entity Number(BEN): How do I find my school or school district's Billed Entity Number(BEN)?
Each school and school district is assigned a BEN (a unique identifier) by USAC. You can find yours on the USAC Search Tools website.
FCC Registration Number: How do I find my FCC registration number?
You can obtain your FCC Registration Number by visiting the FCC Registration Number website, or calling the FCC Registration Number help line at 1-877-480-3201 (Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET).
Application Number and Security Code: How do I reference my application number and security code?
Your application number and security code will be emailed to the email address you provide in the form. This allows you to save your progress on the form and complete the remaining steps later, should you have additional questions you need to clarify to be accurate in your application.
Give this Application a Nickname: How can I use nicknames to identify my district's Form 471 applications?
To keep various Form 471s organized, assign each one a nickname that identifies if the application is requesting eligible services under Category 1 or Category 2. If you are filing multiple Form 471 applications for Category 1 and Category 2 services, then select a nickname that identifies the category and the type of service for which you are applying. For example, the Form 471 nickname that reflects all eligible broadband services could be saved as "Category 1: Internet."
Entering my School or District Entities: How do I add the school or district entities for which I am applying to begin calculating my district's discount?
In the "Entity Number" field, enter your district's BEN and click "add entity." You will see your district's name appear with the options of "Enter Data" or "Connectivity Questions." Choose "Enter Data." Under the section entitled "Entity Information and Budget Calculation" click on the "+" sign to begin adding the schools and non-instructional facilities within your district. See USAC's video for step-by-step instructions.
What is an NCES code and where can I verify them?
An NCES code is a school or school district's unique identifier, much like the BEN. An NCES code is assigned by the National Center for Educational Statistics and is used to correlate particular school characteristics such as student population, locale, etc. When adding a school entity in this section, the form will pre-populate an NCES code for you. Please verify that NCES code here to ensure USAC has the correct NCES code for your school and district.
How do I know whether my entity is urban or rural?
Use the Urban/Rural lookup tool provided by USAC by entering the entity number for your school or district.
How do I calculate my district's E-rate discount?
This year an applicant discount will be calculated at the school district level, regardless of which schools within the district are receiving these services. After entering all your entities for which you are applying, to calculate your district's E-rate discount, you must enter the student population and the number of students that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for each school. After you add each school's information, click "Save and Recalculate" and the tool will calculate your district's E-rate discount. Note that the "Save and Recalculate" button may not be visible at the bottom of the screen, unless you have edited your entity information. For information on the online form and the discount templates see the USAC News Brief about Discount Calculations.
Visit The USAC Online Learning Library For More Resources
Find more resources about the E-Rate Schools and Libraries program through the USAC Online Learning Library. The USAC Online Learning Library provides information about the E-Rate applicant process, an eligible services list, required forms and examples, plus training tools and more.
Your Buffer Against Budget Cuts: Don't Pay Top Dollar for Comparable IT Equipment
According to Alcatel-Lucent's Business Develpment Director and E-rate analyst, Neal Tilley, many schools are buying the leading brands of telecommunications products and services because they may not realize there's another option. These top brands also come with the top price tags, which is costing schools billions in unnecessary costs. While premium vendors can certainly meet schools' IT requirements, so can the very reputable vendors that offer comparable products and services – at a significantly lower cost.
Tilley's research across 29 states revealed that average amount K-12 schools spent on the top vendor, compared with a more moderate vendor, was a difference of $44K. Ironically, this is the same as the average U.S. teacher's salary.
The Alcatel-Lucent report recommends that superintendents work with their IT vendors, CIOs, and boards to research the top IT brands and compare them with brands of a lesser cost. Most will find that comparable products and services can be purchased – without the premium price tag. However for school administrators, understanding the IT marketplace is no small task, so the report also encourages USAC to include better research tools in its e-rate resources.
The bottom line: Schools should be aware that the IT market has expanded in the past two decades, and there are many options for reputable vendors who can meet your IT needs at a more moderate cost than the premium brands. When you consider that nowhere else are schools paying top dollar for top-of-the-line equipment (unless it's truly necessary), this may be a solution that helps save a few teachers, and school budgets.