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Full access to telecommunications and information resources makes possible the rich teaching and learning that take place in schools and libraries. For these institutions to provide the high level of service necessary for their students and patrons to participate fully in American society, the costs can be great. Telecommunications and Internet access, the hardware needed for assembling local networks, and maintenance of systems and machines can stretch budgets that are already under stress.
The universal service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-rate,” helps ensure that schools and libraries can obtain telecommunications and Internet access at affordable rates.
If you’re an applicant, once you understand eligibility, your next step is to review the application process. Before you start, be sure to review what you need to know Before You Begin. The process starts with a request for services and ends when you select a cost-effective provider. Then a contract is signed, and the discounted services can begin.
For applicants requiring more assistance with the Schools and Libraries Program process, they might consider looking into the Helping Applicants to Succeed (HATS) outreach program.
If you’re a telecom carrier, the first step is to learn about the program and about your own eligibility. Does your company have a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN)? If not, you’ll need to obtain one. Once you obtain your SPIN, you can begin the bidding process for service. When you win a bid and start a contract, make sure to discuss the invoicing process up-front to determine which invoicing option you’ll choose.
Eligible participants include public and most non-profit K-12 schools as well as all public and many private libraries. All program participants must carry out a competitive bidding process to select the most cost-effective companies to provide the goods and/or services requested.
Funding may be requested under five categories of service: Telecommunications, Telecommunications Services, Internet Access, Internal Connections, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections. Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served and range from 20 percent to 90 percent of the costs of eligible services.