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Government Funding for Increasing Broadband Access in Public Schools and Libraries: The FCC’s e-rate Program

Public education today faces a serious challenge: a lack of sufficient technology funding. Both STEM and Common Core curriculums have a higher chance of success with the appropriate technology support, yet many public school districts lack the funding required to update their broadband infrastructure, let alone their hardware.

Help, however, may be as close as your computer. Select public school districts will qualify for the FCC’s Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries (e-rate) program. The FCC created the e-rate program to support public schools and libraries by offering discounted telecommunications and Internet services to eligible institutions.

DZS worked with Billings Public Schools in Montana to implement DZS’s GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) technology across the district’s elementary school sites. Billings utilized the FCC’s e-rate program, along with a local bond, to finance the project.

“The E-rate program allowed us to stretch our bond dollars even further,” said Kyle Brucker, Director of Technology for Billings Public Schools. “But, ultimately, it was the cost savings advantages of DZS’s GPON technology that will allow us to upgrade all 22 elementary schools within our district by 2017.”

DZS’s fiber-based technology allowed the district to save 15-20% versus a copper implementation, according to Larry Bybee, Network Manager for Billings Public Schools, allowing the district to maximize the e-rate program.

How to Apply for the FCC’s e-rate Program

To find out if your institution qualifies and to get started, be sure to review the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) Applicant User Guide, which includes instructions for accessing the system for first time applications.

Be aware that funding for fiscal year 2016 is currently open. According to the USAC’s File Along with Me blog, the filing window, which applies to the funding request form (FCC Form 471), will be open from February 2, 2016, through Friday, April 29, 2016.

To start, log into the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and set up your school or library’s profile. Next, submit FCC Form 470. We advise working closely with both your technology staff and your board to ensure all information is presented accurately.

If you have questions along the way, be sure to check out the Universal Service Administrative Company’s e-learning center, which includes information about completing the forms as well as webinar recordings.

DZS is dedicated to providing cost-effective, long-term infrastructure solutions for public education. Our team can help develp a complimentary assessment of the costs and benefits Passive Optical LAN for your school. Message me directly on LinkedIn to get started or visit www.dasanzhone.com/comp-assesment.cgi to request an assessment.

At DZS we’re aware of the financial challenges public administrators face when developing technology infrastructure improvement plans. Seeking both local and federal funding is one avenue to providing the funding necessary to realize technology goals.

With funding in place, look to DZS’s fiber-based technology solutions, which are designed to be both cost-effective and long-term, as the solution to your technology improvement goals.

*Note: Please note that FCC’s e-rate program funding, forms and instruction are subject to change without notice.

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