The Learning Technology Center provides support to schools as they apply for and utilize state and federal funding for technology initiatives.
The LTC’s knowledgable team can help your institution apply for E-Rate and other special funding sources through our annual trainings, webinars, and other free resources.
The Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-Rate,” provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. Administered by the FCC, the E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. The ongoing proliferation of innovative digital learning technologies and the need to connect students, teachers, and consumers to jobs, lifelong learning and information have led to a steady rise in demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries.
In recent years, the FCC refocused E-rate from legacy telecommunications services to broadband, with a goal to significantly expand Wi-Fi access. These steps to modernize the program are helping E-rate keep pace with the need for increased Internet access.
School districts can typically expect discounts on Category One (C1) services such as primary internet access, internet connections between buildings and construction required to obtain internet access. Category Two (C2) services include equipment and services used inside the school buildings to get internet access to student devices. Some of these items typically include routers, switches, and wireless access points. E-rate does NOT cover end user devices, such as computers or tablets. Each summer an Eligible Services list is posted for comment and then adopted by the program determining all items eligible for funding in that year.
Districts who wish to apply for E-rate must follow an application process that includes multiple forms. The majority of this process is handled electronically within the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). This dashboard provides access to the necessary forms and communications with Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), who manages the process for the FCC. Individual forms walk applicants through a process of determining needed services, accepting bids, entering into contracts with providers and activation or completion of services. Districts begin the process of application up to a year before services are confirmed and implemented. This lengthy process containing multiple forms and timelines requires districts to oversee the applications and implementation of services over multiple years.
E-rate discount levels are determined by district poverty level, primarily identified by eligibility in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Many state departments of education provide staff, or State E-rate Coordinators to help districts navigate the process. Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center, serves as one of the State E-rate Coordinators for IL and provides support to school districts navigating the program and multiple forms. The LTC provides instruction, reminders, application workshops and general program guidance through ISBE support. Melinda also participates in national organizations that support the E-rate program such as the State E-rate Coordinators Association (SECA) and State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) E-rate special interest group. Affiliation with these national organizations help insure Illinois Districts are kept up to speed with changes in the E-rate environment.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released a notice of funding opportunity/request for proposals (NOFO/RFP) for pending state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools. The funds would reimburse school districts for the cost of upgrading their broadband infrastructure to fiber optic technology. Fiber optic technology delivers the most affordable and fastest network speeds to schools and allows districts to scale cost-effectively to meet growing bandwidth needs in the future.
Nearly 75 districts across the state have been identified as having one or more school building in their district without access to this scalable infrastructure. Priority of funding will be given to districts that can demonstrate one or more buildings in their district is in need of a fiber upgrade.
In order to apply interested districts must:
The LTC provides approximately 30 in-person and online events each year to assist school districts with navigating the E-Rate process.
This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 470 form. The E-rate 470 form opens the bidding process for the E-rate cycle each year.
This video will demonstrate how to add a new contract to the E-rate EPC system for your Form 471. Contracts must be uploaded prior to completing the E-rate 471.
This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 471 form, from the beginning, until choosing a category of service type. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year. commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.
This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for special construction on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.
This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for category 2 services on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.
This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 486 form up to the certification process.
This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 486 form including the certification process.
In an effort to close that gap and help districts digitally prepare for the 21-22 school year and beyond, Congress appropriated $7.1 billion within the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to the FCC for distribution to eligible schools and libraries across the US. The FCC, in turn, has decided to distribute these funds – termed the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) – through a process similar to their E-Rate application system.
What is ECF?
On March 23, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is opening a third application filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) support. The third application window will open on April 28 and close on May 13. For eligible schools and libraries, the ECF Program will cover reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. All schools and libraries are eligible for this funding that will cover the 22-23 school year and the application is accessed with E-Rate Credentials.
The ECF will be applied for and distributed as two distinct rounds of funding. Each round will run for 45 days after opening. Opening and closing dates for each round of funding are TBA. The first ECF round will cover connectivity and technology infrastructure costs incurrent from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. The second ECF round will reimburse for similar types of costs incurred from March 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Individuals interested in applying for the ACP can do so here. Applicants can also apply for this benefit by contacting their internet service provider directly (IL provider list)
State of Illinois funding has been allocated for a secure K-12 Broadband Network available at no cost for all Illinois K-12 public school districts. This program removes barriers limiting access to secure Internet bandwidth essential in today’s digital learning environment. The key objective is to ensure every Illinois public K-12 school district has sufficient and fully funded bandwidth to meet the needs of their students, faculty and administration.
Membership benefits include Internet access, last mile broadband connections, WAN circuits, router upgrades and security services including firewalls, filtering, DDoS protection and Network monitoring, all at no charge.
The purpose of the E-rate State Matching Program is to reimburse eligible districts for fiber special construction costs they incur. These dollars match federal funding and will enable such districts to expand educational opportunities and increase student achievement.
The FCC adopted rules for E-rate C1 special construction charges in its December 2014 Second Report and Order on Reconsideration. The rules allow the FCC to match state funding (up to 10 percent) for special construction charges to connect schools and libraries to high-speed broadband services that meet the FCC’s long-term capacity broadband goals.
Proposals for special construction for leased lit fiber should include a copy of the district’s FCC Form 470 and the rubric that was used to make determinations. District proposals requesting special construction for either a dark fiber or a self-provisioned project should include both FCC Form 470 and the separate Federal E-rate RFP for the services requested (dark fiber, self-provisioned fiber, or both) as well as the rubric used to make determinations. All proposals should include a synopsis of each proposal received for the project and an explanation as to why the vendor(s) were chosen.
Funding Opportunities for the IL State Matching Grant can be found under on the ISBE Broadband page HERE under the heading ‘E-Rate State Matching Grant’.
In addition to the general E-Rate support and workshops provided by the Learning Technology Center, the LTC provides a writing guide for each release of the IL State Matching Grant. An overview of the grant materials, including the available guide(s) is available by contacting email@example.com.
Mindy provides leadership, expertise, and support related to broadband connectivity, equipment and device access, and funding sources, including E-Rate.