Public libraries and schools have always been at the forefront of providing access to information for generations of Americans. They are a force in helping Americans find jobs, gain an education, stay up-to-date with world events, and take full advantage of all that the Internet has to offer.
Providing free or low cost Internet access is a critical component of this effort, and the FCC’s E-rate program is one key source of funding for schools and libraries to provide high speed connectivity. The resources in this guide will help you learn more about how this program works so that you can take advantage of all it has to offer your community.
What is E-Rate?
The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (E-rate) provides discounts on eligible services, equipment and construction related to Internet access to schools and libraries. Discounts are funded by USF contributions that telecommunications companies designate for this purpose.
How can my school or library apply?
Step 1: Find out if your group qualifies. If your school or library is a Title I, Title II or Pre-school facility, complete the Annual Eligibility Certification for FCC Universal Service Fund E-rate Discounts.
Step 2: Complete and submit your application at least 30 days before you want funding to begin. To apply, use either the FCC Form 471 or an FCC Form 470.
Step 3: Receive notification of your school’s/library’s eligibility. The FCC will review your application and notify you in writing of the results within 45 days after submitting your form.
Step 4: Use your funding. Once you have been notified of your eligibility, you can then place orders with service providers for the services and equipment that you want to buy using the E-rate discount.
What kinds of things are funded?
The Schools and Libraries Division provides discounts on a variety of telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections services to K-12 public schools, public libraries, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.
Eligible services include:
Internet access – including a wide variety of Internet access technologies such as cable modem service, DSL, fixed wireless and satellite broadband.
Internal connections – telecommunications service for linking different parts of the school or library campus.
External connections – telecommunications services for linking the school or library to the wider Internet, including any necessary equipment.
Telecommunications services for eligible schools are also available for eligible educators in rural areas if they are not receiving subsidized service through E-rate from an eligible telecommunications carrier.
Eligible Equipment includes:
Computers and other equipment for achieving connectivity, including routers and switches. Telecommunications, networking and internet access equipment such as servers, broadband routers, cabling and more. Telephone handsets.
What kinds of things are not funded?
The Schools and Libraries Division does not provide discounts on the following:
Equipment that is eligible for a different discount through the Universal Service Fund. If your school or library qualifies for a discount through the Low-Income program, we recommend that you apply for internet access and internal connections using the Low Income Program’s FCC Forms 486 and 484 instead of E-rate. These forms are also available in Spanish (Formularios de Ayuda Técnica 486 y 484) and the instructions are available in Spanish (Instrucciones de Ayuda Técnica 486 y 484).
Accessories such as cases, stands, flash drives or equipment cases. We do not fund items used for personal use.
Services that are already heavily discounted under the E-rate program.
Services that are ineligible for E-rate discounts, such as telephone services other than eligible internal connections, payphones and paging services.
Construction – the Schools and Libraries Division is a discount program, not a capital or construction grant program. It cannot fund the costs of new facilities or major renovations to existing buildings. However, it can fund upgrades to a school’s or library’s technology infrastructure. In addition, wiring and other equipment can be eligible if it is necessary for the installation of Internet access or internal connections.