EdTech Report: E-Rate Priorities and Proposed Program Changes
The Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program provides discounts to assist schools and libraries with internet access and telecommunications services. Funding is broken down into two categories: Category 1 services provide connectivity to schools and libraries, while Category 2 services are those services that provide connectivity within schools and libraries. In 2014, changes were made to the program to increase access to funds, and participation in the program skyrocketed.
Three Category 2 areas of funding are set to expire in 2019: managed internal broadband services, caching, and basic maintenance of internal connections. This month the FCC is accepting comments from education and library professionals and technology vendors on e-rate Category 2 eligible services as they weigh the future of Category 2 funding. As part of the comment process, Funds for Learning submitted a report analyzing E-rate Category 2 budget usage from FY2015-FY2019. They found that 85% of school sites in the country have received Category 2 support since FY2015.
So, where is E-rate money being spent and what are future priorities? Based on a 2019 E-rate Trend Report, Funds for Learning found that 75% of Category 1 spending, or $1,800,000, was spent on Lit fiber. In Category 2, schools and libraries spent $581,000 (40%) on Switches and $379,000 (26%) on Wi-Fi. Over 50% of E-rate respondents indicated they needed to upgrade their Wi-Fi in the next 1-3 years.
If you are interested in weighing in on proposed changes, you can go to the FCCs web site to see how to submit comments. We don’t anticipate that the FCC will drop current areas of funding for Category 2 based on the tone of the proposed rulemaking document and the increase in participation in Category 2 activities over the past 5 years, but we will continue to monitor E-rate activity and update you on changes.