Connectivity and E-Rate

NEW Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Application Window Open Now!

Deadline set for Friday, August 13, 2021.

ECF Virtual Application Workshops now available (click HERE for pdf. flyer)

Wed. July 14, 2-4

Thurs. July 22, 10-12  (Access On-Demand Recording Here)

Wed. July 28, 10-12

Tues.  Aug 10, 2-4

The FCC recently announced two new programs to support remote learning efforts. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) programs are outlined below. LTC webinars, workshops and other support activities are available for these programs. Please check out the information below and our LTC Blogs on the subjects. More events will be scheduled as additional details present themselves.

EBB Blog Post ECF Blog Post 

Webinars on Offerings from May 20 & 26 and June 3  On-Demand Recordings

The Learning Technology Center of Illinois offers support for the following programs:

Related Projects

Contact Information

Mindy Fiscus – Digital Access Coordinator
mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

https://ltcillinois.org/resources/e-rateseries/

Overview of E-Rate

The Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-Rate,” provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. Administered by the FCC, the E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. The ongoing proliferation of innovative digital learning technologies and the need to connect students, teachers, and consumers to jobs, lifelong learning and information have led to a steady rise in demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries.

Training Tour

The E-Rate Essentials Training Tour for the FY21 funding cycle was held in the fall and winter of 2020-21. These are annual events and the next series is in planning for fall and winter of 2021-22. Dates and registration will be updated HERE when training dates are announced.

Resources

Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

  • Parent and caregiver application process
  • https://getemergencybroadband.org/
  • Program opening May 12, 2021
  • Home connectivity discounts for those under the national poverty level (aka NOT just for schools)
  • Students who are participating in free/reduced lunch are eligible
  • $50 credit off of monthly home internet access
  • Contact provider to sign up (IL Provider list) or file online (same link as above)

Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

  • Schools and Libraries application process
  • Expected to open June/July 2021 – official date TBD
  • Specifically for School Districts and Libraries
  • Home/community connectivity and end-user devices to support remote learning (student/staff homes, community centers, churches etc. where remote learning is taking place)
  • Designed to support those still unserved/unconnected after COVID relief funding efforts thus far, termed ‘unmet need’
  • The application process will borrow from the E-Rate process and possibly use some of the same forms
  • $400 limit on connected end-user devices, $250 limit on equipment for connectivity (wifi hotspots)
  • Includes funding for connecting busses and bookmobile (libraries)
  • Two rounds of funding lasting 45 days each
    • Round 1- covers expected expenses July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022
    • Round 2- covers reimbursement of expenses March 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021
  • 100% reimbursement (not a discount or district share like E-Rate)
  • Specifics on items eligible and the application process will be provided in LTC ECF workshops/webinars to be scheduled when the application window is announced

Other programs supported by the LTC are:

Current workshop opportunities and general program information is offered below.

  • Events & Trainings
  • Video Walkthroughs
  • Common Questions

E-Rate Essentials Training Series


The LTC provides approximately 30 in-person and online events each year to assist school districts with navigating the E-Rate process. Download Tour Series Flyer.

Audience: New or veteran E-Rate applicants

Fee: Free

Note: Due to COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, many of our tour sites are limited to virtual attendance only at this time. Sites that do have an in-person option are noted below and have limited registration mindful of current regulations. Every effort was made to offer consistency in offerings across the state. Specific locations are noted in accordance with previous tour destinations. Registration for all events is open to anyone, regardless of district location.

Upcoming E-Rate Events

View all E-Rate Essential Events on the E-Rate Essential Training Series site.

There are no upcoming events at this time.

FY19 Video Walkthoughs

Completion of E-Rate 4-70

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 470 form. The E-rate 470 form opens the bidding process for the E-rate cycle each year.

E-Rate 471 Walkthrough

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 471 form, from the beginning, until choosing a category of service type. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 471 Funding Request

This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for special construction on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

Adding Contract to E-Rate 471

This video will demonstrate how to add a new contract to the E-rate EPC system for your Form 471. Contracts must be uploaded prior to completing the E-rate 471.

E-Rate 471 FRN Copy Feature

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 471 form, using the FRN copy feature for Category 1 services. The E-rate form 471 commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 471 Cat 2 Request

This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for category 2 services on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 486

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 486 form including the certification process.

Common Questions

What does E-Rate Cover?

In recent years, the FCC refocused E-rate from legacy telecommunications services to broadband, with a goal to significantly expand Wi-Fi access. These steps to modernize the program are helping E-rate keep pace with the need for increased Internet access.

School districts can typically expect discounts on Category One (C1) services such as primary internet access, internet connections between buildings and construction required to obtain internet access. Category Two (C2) services include equipment and services used inside the school buildings to get internet access to student devices. Some of these items typically include routers, switches, and wireless access points. E-rate does NOT cover end user devices, such as computers or tablets. Each summer an Eligible Services list is posted for comment and then adopted by the program determining all items eligible for funding in that year.

How can I apply?

Districts who wish to apply for E-rate must follow an application process that includes multiple forms. The majority of this process is handled electronically within the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). This dashboard provides access to the necessary forms and communications with Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), who manages the process for the FCC. Individual forms walk applicants through a process of determining needed services, accepting bids, entering into contracts with providers and activation or completion of services. Districts begin the process of application up to a year before services are confirmed and implemented. This lengthy process containing multiple forms and timelines requires districts to oversee the applications and implementation of services over multiple years.

How big of a discount can your district receive?

E-rate discount levels are determined by district poverty level, primarily identified by eligibility in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

What state support is available?

Many state departments of education provide staff, or State E-rate Coordinators to help districts navigate the process. Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center, serves as one of the State E-rate Coordinators for IL and provides support to school districts navigating the program and multiple forms. The LTC provides instruction, reminders, application workshops and general program guidance through ISBE support. Melinda also participates in national organizations that support the E-rate program such as the State E-rate Coordinators Association (SECA) and State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) E-rate special interest group. Affiliation with these national organizations help insure Illinois Districts are kept up to speed with changes in the E-rate environment.

What is the Illinois E-Rate Matching Grant?

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released a notice of funding opportunity/request for proposals (NOFO/RFP) for pending state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools. The funds would reimburse school districts for the cost of upgrading their broadband infrastructure to fiber optic technology. Fiber optic technology delivers the most affordable and fastest network speeds to schools and allows districts to scale cost-effectively to meet growing bandwidth needs in the future.

Nearly 75 districts across the state have been identified as having one or more school building in their district without access to this scalable infrastructure. Priority of funding will be given to districts that can demonstrate one or more buildings in their district is in need of a fiber upgrade.

In order to apply interested districts must:

  • Leverage E-rate funding and apply for special construction on their E-rate 470 and 471 applications.
  • Create a detailed RFP and/or Project. Guidance and sample templates are available from EducationSuperHighway, an Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative partner.
  • Compare bids and choose a winning provider, following E-rate timelines, rules and guidance from USAC.
  • Complete the IL E-rate State Matching Grant Form on the ISBE Broadband Information webpage.