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E-rate 101

What is E-Rate?

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As a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an Order on May 8, 1997, creating the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (USF), commonly known as "E(education)-rate." The FCC’s Schools and Libraries Program supports connectivity - the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services and/or the Internet for schools and libraries in the United States.

The E-Rate – or, more precisely, the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism – provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in Wisconsin and throughout the United States with obtaining affordable telecommunications services and Internet access. The E-rate Program supports connectivity – the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services and/or the Internet. Applicants for E-rate funding are responsible for providing additional resources; such as, end-user equipment (computers, telephones), software, professional development, and other elements that are necessary to effectively make use of that connectivity.

Eligible participants include public and most non-profit K-12 schools as well as all public and many private libraries. All program participants must carry out a competitive bidding process to select the most cost-effective companies to provide the goods and/or services requested.

Funding may be requested under five categories of service: Telecommunications, Telecommunications Services, Internet Access, Internal Connections, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections. Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served and range from 20 percent to 90 percent of the costs of eligible services.  

    For questions about this information, contact Bill Herman (608) 267-2346