Funding and Access

Funding and Access

Resources, training, and support for obtaining state and federal connectivity funding

Contact Information

Mindy Fiscus – Digital Access Coordinator
mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

Join the LTC Community!

Questions about an application? Looking for a form or funding resource? Join the LTC Community, where you’ll find a specialized Funding and Access community dedicated to supporting your funding utilization efforts.

The Learning Technology Center provides support to schools as they apply for and utilize state and federal funding for technology initiatives.

The LTC’s knowledgable team can help your institution apply for E-Rate and other special funding sources through our annual trainings, webinars, and other free resources.

E-Rate

  • Announcements
  • What is E-Rate?
  • Events & Trainings
  • Video Walkthroughs
  • Common Questions
  • Resources

BEAR 472 Now Available in EPC Portal

Invoicing is now available within your login to the EPC Portal. After completing the authentication process, you should be directed to a landing page providing access to EPC, ECF and BEAR systems. If you do not see BEAR access on your landing page and need access to the invoicing system, please follow the simple steps provided on the USAC page HERE.

E-Rate Application Tour Dates Released Soon!

Right now, Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access and IL State E-Rate Coordinator, is working to schedule E-Rate application workshops across the state. Open bidding form (470) workshops will be held in November-December 2021, while main application (471) workshops will be held in January-March 2022. These two workshop tours will provide attendees hands-on support for program forms. Both in-person and virtual options are planned for this year’s tour.

Stay tuned to this page and the “Funding and Access ” sub-group on the LTC Community for more updates about webinars, workshops, and other events concerning funding sources.

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 each year.

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.

E-Rate Application Tour Dates Coming Soon!

Right now, Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access and IL State E-Rate Coordinator, is working to schedule E-Rate application workshops across the state. Open bidding form (470) workshops will be held in November-December 2021, while main application (471) workshops will be held in January-March 2022. These two workshop tours will provide attendees hands-on support for program forms. Both in-person and virtual options are planned for this year’s tour.

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 and have limited registration mindful of current regulations. Every effort was made to offer consistency in offerings across the state. Registration for all events is open to anyone, regardless of district location.

Upcoming E-Rate Events

Other Than E-Rate Essentials – June 3 at 10 AM

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

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.

E-Rate 486

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

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.

EBB & ECF

  • Announcements
  • Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
  • Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)
  • Events & Trainings
  • Common Questions
  • Resources

New ECF Second Chance Window (8/25/21)

From USAC:

In light of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC announced in a press release today that they will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding from the roughly $2 billion in program funds remaining for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.  The second application filing window will open on September 28 and run until October 13.  Eligible schools and libraries will be able to apply for financial support for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs.

LTC Workshops for ECF Second Chance Window

Two additional virtual ECF Workshops have been scheduled to support applicants in applying for the 2nd chance window that opens September 28 and runs until October 13.

September 30, 2021

October 5, 2021

EBB and ECF Updates (6/10/21)

The FCC recently announced two new programs to support remote learning and at-home internet connectivity efforts. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) programs, their requirements, and their benefits are outlined in the following LTC blog posts:

EBB Blog Post ECF Blog Post 

Stay tuned to this page and the “Funding and Access” sub-group on the LTC Community for more updates about webinars, workshops, and other events concerning these new funding sources.

Overview of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US already faced a significant divide when it came to at-home internet connectivity. This divide became even more apparent as workplaces and schools became fully reliant on at-home internet connections to facilitate learning and labor alike.

Now a full year on, the FCC is taking steps to close that divide by opening the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. This program will offer qualifying participants $50 off their monthly broadband internet bill. Participants will also have an opportunity to apply for other special benefits, including a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for household use.

As a general FCC program, these opportunities are not open exclusively to educational institutions or homes with students. However, educational institutions and their families may still choose to seek out support through this program in order to improve at-home remote and digital learning activities.

Learn more about the EBB – including who is eligible and how to apply – in this blog post.

Apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

Parents and caregivers interested in applying for the EBB can do so here.

Applicants can also apply for this benefit by contacting their internet service provider directly (IL provider list)

Overview of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US federal government already identified a growing digital divide in schools and districts across the country. However, the pandemic greatly exasperated these issues, especially in districts with poor internet connectivity infrastructure and aging digital learning hardware.

In an effort to close that gap and help districts digitally prepare for the 21-22 school year and beyond, Congress appropriated $7.1 billion within the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to the FCC for distribution to eligible schools and libraries across the US. The FCC, in turn, has decided to distribute these funds – termed the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) – through a process similar to their E-Rate application system.

Learn more about the ECF – including who is eligible and how to apply – in this blog post.

Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Structure

The ECF will be applied for and distributed as two distinct rounds of funding. Each round will run for 45 days after opening. Opening and closing dates for each round of funding are TBA.

The first ECF round will cover connectivity and technology infrastructure costs incurrent from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

The second ECF round will reimburse for similar types of costs incurred from March 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021.

Apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

Schools and libraries interested in utilizing ECF funds will apply for said funds through the existing E-Rate infrastructure. However, the ECF as a whole will act as a “special” round of funding. As a result, it will not impact eligibility for current or future E-Rate funds.

Connectivity Events and Trainings

LTC Workshops for ECF Second Chance Window

Two additional virtual ECF Workshops have been scheduled to support applicants in applying for the 2nd chance window that opens September 28 and runs until October 13.

September 30, 2021

October 5, 2021

Previously Offered workshops:

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

Wed. July 28, 10-12 (Access On-Demand Recording Here)

Tues.  Aug 10, 2-4 (Access On-Demand Recording Here)

Upcoming E-Rate Events

Other Than E-Rate Essentials – June 3 at 10 AM

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

Common Questions

Who do I contact with questions about applying for Connectivity funding?

For all questions about Connectivity and other types of state and federal grant funding, contact Mindy Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator, at mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

 

Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

FCC EBB FAQ

USAC EBB FAQ

 

Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

FCC ECF FAQ

Resources

Check back here for useful resources and links for completing your Connectivity funding applications.

State of Illinois Programs

  • Announcements
  • Illinois Century Network (ICN)
  • IL State Matching Grant
  • Events & Trainings
  • Common Questions
  • Resources

LTC Support for State Programs

The Learning Technology Center supports state initiatives that help to bring scalable broadband connectivity to every part of the state. Some of these programs work in alignment with other LTC supports (E-Rate), while others provide new opportunities for growth for schools, libraries, and the wider community. The following tabs represent funding opportunities, partnerships, and exemplars. Please contact Digital Access Coordinator, Mindy Fiscus at mfiscus@ltcillinois.org with additional leads on broadband support.

Illinois Century Network (ICN) K-12 Broadband Network

State of Illinois funding has been allocated for a secure K-12 Broadband Network available at no cost for all Illinois K-12 public school districts. This program removes barriers limiting access to secure Internet bandwidth essential in today’s digital learning environment. The key objective is to ensure every Illinois public K-12 school district has sufficient and fully funded bandwidth to meet the needs of their students, faculty and administration.

Membership benefits include Internet access, last mile broadband connections, WAN circuits, router upgrades and security services including firewalls, filtering, DDoS protection and Network monitoring, all at no charge.

K-12 E-Rate Consortium Opportunity

Learn more about the ICN here!

LTC Workshops ICN Forms and Tools Walkthrough

Overview of the IL State Matching Grant program

The purpose of the E-rate State Matching Program is to reimburse eligible districts for fiber special construction costs they incur. These dollars match federal funding and will enable such districts to expand educational opportunities and increase student achievement.

The FCC adopted rules for E-rate C1 special construction charges in its December 2014 Second Report and Order on Reconsideration. The rules allow the FCC to match state funding (up to 10 percent) for special construction charges to connect schools and libraries to high-speed broadband services that meet the FCC’s long-term capacity broadband goals.

Proposals for special construction for leased lit fiber should include a copy of the district’s FCC Form 470 and the rubric that was used to make determinations. District proposals requesting special construction for either a dark fiber or a self-provisioned project should include both FCC Form 470 and the separate Federal E-rate RFP for the services requested (dark fiber, self-provisioned fiber, or both) as well as the rubric used to make determinations. All proposals should include a synopsis of each proposal received for the project and an explanation as to why the vendor(s) were chosen.

Funding Opportunities for the IL State Matching Grant can be found under on the ISBE Broadband page HERE under the heading ‘E-Rate State Matching Grant’

LTC Support of IL E-Rate State Matching Grant

In addition to the general E-Rate support and workshops provided by the Learning Technology Center, the LTC provides a writing guide for each release of the IL State Matching Grant. An overview of the grant materials, including the available guide(s) is available by contacting mfiscus@ltcillinois.org.

FY20 LTC State Matching Grant Guide

Connectivity Events and Trainings

Keep an eye out for upcoming events and trainings on a variety of timely Connectivity topics.

Upcoming E-Rate Events

Other Than E-Rate Essentials – June 3 at 10 AM

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

Common Questions

Who do I contact with questions about applying for Connectivity funding?

For all questions about Connectivity and other types of state and federal grant funding, contact Mindy Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator, at mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

Resources

Check back here for useful resources and links for completing your Connectivity funding applications.