It’s Not Too Late for E-Rate, Part 1: Changes Are Coming
E-Rate is changing. Are you ready? For years, K-12 schools and libraries have counted on E-Rate funding to modernize and maintain their voice and data communications infrastructure. At the end of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees the E-Rate program, announced it would allocate an additional $1.5 billion in E-Rate funding for mobile broadband (particularly Wi-Fi) services.
In order to accommodate the increase in funding for broadband connectivity, the FCC concurrently announced it would immediately discontinue funding for traditional voice communications such as dial-tone service, long distance services and voicemail, while phasing down the funding for other voice services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) over the next five years.
With funding for traditional voice services declining, now is the time to be looking at your long-term voice strategy
In the past, K-12 schools and libraries received partial funding at levels from 20 percent to 90 percent of their total voice connectivity costs through the E-Rate program. Under the new guidelines, K-12 schools and libraries will see funding decrease by 20 percent for each successive year until funding is phased out by 2019.
The table above illustrates the phase down of funding levels through 2019, based on several starting points. Now, more than ever, school and library administrators need to carefully examine their communications strategy and put together a multi-year plan that aligns with their budgetary and educational goals. In the new E-Rate funding landscape, there are both opportunities (mobile broadband, network security) and challenges (legacy voice systems) that must be considered.
As the filing period for next year’s E-Rate programs approaches, administrators need to ask themselves: How do we maximize funding dollars to give our staff and students/constituents the best communications experience possible?