FY2015 E-rate Funding Targeted Toward Expanding and Modernizing Wireless Networks in Schools and Libraries
In December, the Federal Communication Commission moved forward with a plan to modernize e-rate funding to libraries and schools. Funding was increased by $1.5 billion. The plan aims to increase the impact of e-rate funding, modernize the approved uses for funding, and streamline the application process. The changes will impact reimbursement for services starting in FY 2015. Discounts continue to be based on the level of poverty in the area applying. The application period for FY 2015 funds ends on March 26, 2015.
In addition to increased funding, changing the types of services that are allowed for reimbursement will more specifically target the audience this funding is intended to reach: students without reliable wireless connectivity. The program aims to reach an additional 10 million students by 2016.
The plan shifts funding away from what was known as “Category 1” services toward “Category 2” services. This will move funding in phases toward broadband-related needs like wireless service and away from standard telephone service, web hosting, and text messaging. Funding for email services is also eliminated.
Funding discontinued for the following Category 1 services:
- 900/976 call blocking
- custom calling services
- direct inward dialing
- directory assistance charges
- inside wire maintenance plans
- text messaging
- voice mail
- web hosting
Category 2 services include those needed to establish and maintain broadband connections within libraries and schools. Category 2 services qualifying for FY2015 e-rate funding include:
- Access points used in a local area network (LAN) or wireless local area network (WLAN) environment (such as wireless access points)
- Antennas, cabling, connectors, and related components used for internal broadband connections
- Firewall services and components
- Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)/Battery Backup
- Wireless controller systems
- Software supporting each of the components on this list used to distribute high-speed broadband throughout school buildings and libraries
- Repair and upkeep of eligible hardware
- Wire and cable maintenance
- Configuration changes
- Basic technical support including online and telephone based technical support
- Software upgrades and patches including bug fixes and security patches
One of the most notable changes is that a technology plan is no longer required for funding. The application is designed to make the process “faster, simpler and more efficient” than it has been in previous years. All documents will be filed electronically. The emphasis will be on faster turnaround times so that schools and libraries can focus their resources on building strong, internal broadband and wireless systems.