E-Rate is a reimbursement program that provides discounts to assist schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access and upgrade eligible network equipment based upon level of need.
An eligible school or library identifies services it needs and submits a request for competitive bids to the Universal Service Administrative Company. USAC posts these request on its website for vendor's consideration. After reviewing its offers, the school selects its preferred vendor(s) and applies to USAC for approval for the desired purchases.
Next, USAC issues funding commitments to eligible applicants. When a vendor provides the selected services, either the vendor or the applicant submits requests to USAC for reimbursement of the approved discounts.
Who is Eligible?
Definition of a School
For purposes of universal service support, schools must meet the statutory definition of elementary and secondary schools found in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. Section 7801(18) and (38)):
- An elementary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education, as determined under state law.
- A secondary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under state law, except that such term does not include any education beyond grade 12.
Definition of a Library
Libraries must meet the statutory definition of library or library consortium found in the Library Services and Technology Act of 1996 (LSTA) (20 U.S.C. Section 9122) and must be eligible for assistance from a state library administrative agency under that Act.
The definition of a library includes:
- A public library
- A public elementary school or secondary school library
- An academic library
- A research library, one that makes publicly available library services and material suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available to the public and is not an integral part of an institution of higher education
- A private library, but only if the state in which such private library is located determines that the library should be considered a library for purposes of this definition
A library's eligibility for support also depends on its funding as an independent entity. Only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools, including but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities shall be eligible to receive discounted services.
What is Eligible?
The Eligible Services List includes four service types that fall in one of two funding categories:
- Category One Services
- Data Transmission Services and/or Internet Access
- Category Two Services
- Internal Connections
- Managed Internal Broadband Services
- Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections