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E-Rate Guide Tackles Nuances in Federal Funding Program

The Software and Information Industry's (SIIA) has released an updated guide to the federal E-rate program.

The organization partnered with Funds for Learning in updating the guide and will join SellingtoSchools.com in an April 26 webinar to discuss strategies for software and technology companies that want to help schools and libraries leverage the program, including further providing an analysis of both the current E-rate market and how E-rate funds affect school technology purchases.

Software and technology companies in turn use the guide to help their education customers understand and manage changes in the ever-evolving program that, despite its popularity, has a limited amount of funds and an increasing amount of demand. Successful libraries and public and private schools get a 20 percent to 90 percent discount for telecommunications services, Internet access, and Internet connections using E-rate funds, making the program a must for cash-strapped schools hoping to close the digital divide.

Indicative of the growth and importance of Internet connectivity in the digital age, E-rate funding requests have gone up 108 percent, from $2.36 billion in 1998 when the program started to $4.65 billion in 2011, but the stockpile of funds has remained stable at about $2.25 billion plus inflation starting in 2010.

The guide, which is available free to SIIA members and for a fee to other software and technology companies, is must-reading for "any software or technology company that wants to gain a deeper insight into how the E-rate program works and how school districts can leverage the savings from the E-rate program for further technology purchases," said Peter Kaplan, vendor and regulatory solutions executive at Funds for Learning, an E-rate compliance firm that provides professional advance and assistance about the program for applicants and service providers.

The program has, since its inception, been especially important to schools in high poverty and rural communities as they try to bridge the digital divide.

"Now, more than ever, it is vital for software and technology companies to understand the nuances of the E-rate program," said Mark Schneiderman, senior director of education policy at SIIA, the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. "SIIA remains focused on helping schools and libraries access needed technologies through the E-rate, and will continue to work with education, government and industry leaders to support the stability and growth of the E-rate program."

The guide is available now in the SIIA's online store.

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance technology reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].