E-Rate: Why UCaaS Should Be Eligible

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program is geared towards making telecommunications and IT services accessible and affordable for schools and libraries throughout the country. The funding comes from the universal service fund and provides discounts for internet access, telecommunications, and internal connections in eligible schools and libraries.

In 2014 the FCC adopted the E-Rate Modernization Order. The goal of this order was to have wireless internet in every classroom in the country. This order also allows schools to refresh their networks every five years to ensure that our education systems remain technologically updated. As we head into 2023 (almost a decade after the Modernization Order), we are starting to see gaps in what E-Rate can be used for, so let’s dive into where a new order could be beneficial to education.


What does E-Rate funding cover?

To put it in simple terms, there are two categories that E-Rate funding can be used for: telecommunications and internet access. There are obviously a lot of different components within each of these categories but for our intentions today, we will keep it simple.

The amount of funding a school or library is approved for is tied to the level of assistance the student body requires, which is calculated based on free and reduced lunch numbers. The school applies for funding for a specific need, such as running new low voltage cabling, upgrading firewalls, network switches or wireless access points, and they receive an amount of funding for that project based on the level of assistance their student body requires.d6c26c00b0249a272be8c0010b1818b8

What gaps are we seeing in E-Rate funding?

Category One funding helps with monthly ISP services. However, voice services have now been left in the past. Modern voice service – UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) is a cloud-delivered telephony service supporting audio, video, web conferencing, and instant messaging. There are multiple UCaaS options on the market and you can learn more about UCaaS here.

Almost every business vertical is currently utilizing UCaaS as a replacement for traditional legacy phone systems. We are currently providing it for financial institutions, healthcare, retail, higher education, and hospitality. K-12 education is having a difficult time making the switch from their old phone systems because at the moment, UCaaS does not qualify for E-Rate funding. As legacy phone systems become more and more obsolete, projects to enable them to function in a highly technical environment become more costly and complicated. These costly projects impact the schools directly because they are required to use their standard budgets to keep these obsolete phone systems alive instead of using it for current voice technology. UCaaS is cost an effective, efficient, and reliable solution with built in security and mobility – this is especially important in a world where digital learning is prevalent.

How can we make UCaaS eligible for E-Rate funding?

There are a few different ways to make a difference and improve the E-Rate program and petition for changes to ensure that the technology you feel is important is eligible. There are contact points directly on the FCC website to reach out and discuss changes you would like to see made, and there are websites such as FundsForLearning that create petitions for consumers and administrators to sign and get involved with.

We would love to hear your thoughts about E-Rate funding and UCaaS, please reach out to us at ContactUs@Matrix-NDI.com or call 763-475-5500.

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