How to Use Your E-rate Money Wisely

By Scott Weston

In the past two years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put more than $1.2 billion of unused E-rate funds from previous years toward new applications for discounts. That’s not necessarily good news.

What it means is that thousands of schools left money on the table that was committed to them through E-rate—the federal program that came from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and is designed to ensure all eligible schools and public libraries have affordable access to telecommunications and Internet services.

There are many reasons why districts may not use all of the committed funding—some of which can be avoided. While it is rare that a district will use every penny of its E-rate money, leaving large amounts of funding commitments unused can be problematic for a district.

A large amount of unused E-rate funding could be a sign that a district did not properly plan for its technology needs and expenditures. In our experience, there are two main reasons why this occurs: The district does not follow established E-rate rules and regulations, or it was not aware it had funding to use.

The FCC, the agency responsible for the administration and policy of the E-rate program, recognizes that the E-rate process can be challenging for district staffers who already have many job responsibilities in addition to taking care of  E-rate applications and funding.

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