What is E-rate?

Image_3As a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an Order on May 8, 1997, creating the E-rate program to ensure that schools and libraries have affordable access to advanced telecommunications services. Under the program, discounts ranging from 20% to 90% on Telecommunications Services, Internet Access, and Internal Connections are provided to eligible schools and libraries, subject to a $2.25 billion annual cap plus inflation.

In order to receive E-rate discounts, schools and libraries must competitively bid all eligible services on the SLD (program administrator) website and after a minimum of 28 days, select the most cost effective proposal. E-rate discounts are then requested by applying to the SLD and if discounts are approved, they are provided to schools and libraries via directly discounted bills, or a reimbursement process after services have been provided.

Since 1998, Pennsylvania’s schools and libraries have received more than $1 billion in E-rate discounts (see PA Funding Analysis for detailed information), while all eligible schools and libraries nationwide have received more than $14.6 billion. For official E-rate guidance, visit the SLD’s website at www.sl.universalservice.org. For Pennsylvania-specific and unofficial advice, visit the helpful links embedded in this website.

The following are links to program descriptions and detailed guides. In addition, if you are a Pennsylvania school or library applicant, a copy of the 500+ page E-rate Manual is available by contacting Julie Tritt Schell, PA E-rate Coordinator, at jtschell@comcast.net. The manual is updated annually and provided to Pennsylvania applicants attending in-state E-rate training sessions and upon request.

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