For years, school districts and libraries have been augmenting their telecommunication budgets with funds provided by the Universal Service Fund through the E-Rate program. In 2014, the program was modernized to include internal connections under Priority 2. This modernization funds school districts’ and libraries’ efforts to modernize their wired and wireless connections in proportion to their free and reduced lunch (FRL) student population.
The new funding formula provides $150 per student over five years multiplied by the organization’s FRL ratio. For example, if a district’s FRL ratio is 8 out of 10 students – or 80% – and the district has 10,000 students, it is eligible for up to $120,000 over 5 years (10,000 X $150.00 X .80). The district will need to contribute $30,000 to receive the $120,000 in this example. These funds are available one time during the five year period, either all at once or distributed over the course of five years. Most districts are applying for their portion in the first year due to uncertainties about the programs funding over the 5 years.
A district needs to begin the process by filing a Form 470 stating their intent to procure Priority 2 funds for an internal project. This form allows vendors to bid for that project. Because districts are only required to abide by their purchasing policies, this is not necessarily an RFP process. As school districts choose a preferred vendor, they submit a Form 471 by the E-Rate deadline, April 16, 2015. Once the Universal Service Administrative Company returns an intent to fund letter, the work can be scheduled.
Most districts choose a consultant to help them navigate these new and complex waters. This program provides opportunity for districts that have traditionally not been able to upgrade their technology due to financial or staffing constraints. It also presents a challenge in deciding on the new technology to be used and how to implement it. This is where a Value Added Reseller (VAR) like High Point Networks comes in. HPN has been helping school districts improve their infrastructures for over ten years.
We have both the experience and engineering staff to successfully design, implement and support a variety of internal installations. The new E-Rate rules allow for a dizzying array of options to help students make the best use of the technology. Our staff brings their many years of school district experience to bear in designing a solution tailored to each individual district’s needs. We then implement that solution, train staff in its day to day operation, and also back it up with our own support staff. Whether it involves wireless or wired networks, unified communications, server storage or security, High Point Networks is looking forward to partnering with more school districts to enable the success of students and staff in our communities.