APC (American Power Conversion) is doing their part to help schools and libraries across the nation catch up to speed by utilizing a program that can save schools lots of money! APC is working with a program called E-rate, a federal government initiative launched in 1997 to help telecommunications and Internet services at K-12 schools throughout the country.
Through E-rate, schools are eligible to receive rebates ranging from 20% to 90% of the costs of installing and maintaining telecommunications and Internet services, depending on the relative wealth of the school district. The idea is to ensure that all schools have adequate telecom and Internet services, so that we don’t become a land of “haves” and “have nots” with respect to these important communications services.
The program is funded through the Federal Communications Commission Universal Service Fund (USF), which, in turn, is funded through taxes we all pay on our telecommunications bills, whether landline or wireless. In 2014, the FCC updated the program, putting new emphasis on high-speed connectivity as well as wireless networks. It also greatly increased the amount of money available, from $2B to $4.5B over 4 years; we are now entering year 3 of that pool. The program currently supports more than 118,000 school and library facilities and 50.4 million K-12 students, according to the E-rate consultancy Funds for Learning.
While that money is intended to support telecom and Internet services, it can also apply to the infrastructure that supports those services. So it applies not only to the fees schools pay to a voice or data services provider, but also to the equipment that supports internal connections, as well as installation and maintenance of those connections. Did I mention, E-rate is not a one-time deal! Now that the program has been in place for 20 years, many districts will be finding they need to update services for which they’ve already received E-rate funds. That’s perfectly fine, as there’s no limit on the number of times you can request rebates for eligible services and equipment. How cool is APC and the E-rate program?!
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