Policy & Funding
Survey Exposes Need for Off-Campus E-rate Funding
- By Dian Schaffhauser
time for E-rate funding to support off-campus connectivity too.
That's a big theme in the latest survey by Funds
an E-rate consultancy. According to a June
of 2,138 schools and districts that applied for E-rate, 90 percent of
respondents reported that insufficient internet access was a
significant issue in their communities. Ninety-three percent reported
that they would share their discounted internet access for off-campus
purposes if that were allowed by the Federal
And 82.5 percent agreed or "strongly" agreed that their
schools and libraries would use the E-rate program for off-campus
E-rate program supports most schools and libraries in the United
States, providing billions of dollars annually to bolster the costs
for internet access, telecommunications and computer networking
projects. The current program encompasses some 21,000 applicants and
4,100 vendors. The FCC runs the program through the Universal
Service Administrative Co.
E-rate funding is generated through fees collected from
timely finding in the report was that most schools (59 percent)
didn't or couldn't use any of the emergency relief funding they may
have received from the federal government or their state governors
earlier this year to expand connectivity off campus.
the share of people who would like to see cybersecurity added as a
qualifying E-rate service rose from 96 percent last year to 98
percent this year. The desire to see school bus WiFi added increased
from 66 percent to 73 percent. And two-thirds would provision dual
internet connections for more reliable connectivity if that were
allowed by the FCC.
to the company, E-rate continues to be a "vital program" in
helping communities reach connectivity goals. Nine in 10 respondents
agreed or strongly agreed that schools and libraries connected more
students at faster speeds due to the E-rate program. "It would
be devastating to our school without this program," one rural
district respondent said. "Without the E-rate program we would
not be able to provide internet access to our school," reported
fiscal year 2019, the biggest Category 1 spending went to lit fiber,
which drew $1.7 billion in expenditure. That was three times the
amount spent for all other product types combined. For Category 2
spending, investments in switches and routers drew $726 million,
followed by access points ($322 million) and cabling ($163 million).
respondents (59 percent) said they'd expect to upgrade their Wi-Fi
network in the next one to three years. Twenty percent said it needed
to happen within the next year.
the past few months have so poignantly demonstrated, an online
connection should never be taken for granted. Internet access plays a
central role in our society, and schools and libraries are at the
forefront of making sure our communities are included online,"
said John Harrington, Funds For Learning CEO, in a statement. "The
annual E-rate survey amplifies our combined voices to affect positive
change for the program; we'll continue calling upon Congress to
leverage the E-rate program for equitable off-campus internet
full report is openly available on
the Funds For Learning website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.