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Get the Most Out of E-Rate – 4 Tips for K-12 Schools

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

K-12 schools across the U.S. have the opportunity to take advantage of funding available through E-Rate – a federal program that connects k-12 schools and libraries to the internet at a discount of 20-90 percent.

Back in December we shared information on our blog about the changes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made to E-Rate. These changes increased E-Rate program funding from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.

To help K-12 schools and districts looking to take advantage of E-Rate funding, we’ve shared the following 4 best practice tips from EdTech Magazine.

1. Start Early!erate
K-12 schools should start the process as early as possible, asking the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) any questions they may have. Plus, completing the application early has its perks! K-12 schools that apply first get reviewed first and will receive funding in the first wave of approvals.
 
2. Read the E-Rate Modernization Orders.
Confused about what changes the FCC made to the E-Rate program? We understand! Try reading the Modernization Orders on USAC’s website. These documents provide K-12 schools with valuable information and even include a list of frequently asked questions.
 
3. Plan for the Future.
The FCC no longer requires K-12 schools to submit a technology plan to get funded. However, K-12 schools should evaluate their project needs and plan two-three years out. This way, administrators can ensure they get the funding they need when they need it.
 
4. Use USAC’s Free Educational Resources.
USAC’s website includes a ton of print resources and educational videos that help take K-12 schools through each step of the application process. School administrators can even sign up for training events throughout the country!
 
How does E-Rate funding benefit your schools? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, e-rate

FCC Increases Money for E-Rate Program for Schools and Libraries

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 @ 12:12 PM

Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a broad expansion of its program to bring high-speed Internet into schools and libraries.

The E-Rate Program, part of the Universal Service Fund, will grow by $1.5 billion to a spending cap of $3.9 billion. This is the first change in the base spending cap since it was set in 1997.SecureNetworkBanner

Ed-tech stakeholders have been rallying to update the E-Rate program for years. ““Broadband is the greatest equalizer of our time, but this only holds true if everyone has access,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in comments before the vote. “Thanks to E-Rate, more than 95 percent of the classrooms in this country are now connected to the Internet.”

“The FCC’s vote will ensure that our schools and libraries achieve the connection speeds and Wi-Fi needed to connect fully with our interconnected world,” said Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts.

This decision to raise the E-Rate spending cap will also add to the fees tacked on to the phone bills of Americans each month. FCC officials said consumers would pay less than $2 a year in additional fees per phone line, or less than $6 extra per household, on average. Businesses pay into the program as well.

Does this change to E-Rate positively impact your school district? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, e-rate

Some E-Rate Discounts will End in 2015 for K-12 Schools

Posted by Erika Scialdone on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 14:09 PM

In the year 2014 alone, eRate discounts saved K-12 schools a total of $ 2.4 billion for e-mail, voice mail and website hosting applications.  According to the FCC, starting in 2015, this crucial abundance of discounts will no longer be available.

The cancellation of eRate discounts will propose an intense, most likely negative, change to many K-12 school budgets.  However, there are other applications that can be used for e-mail and web hosting sites that are currently free.

There are two free applications that are used within school communities today:  Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 Education (A2 Plan).emailinbox

Google Apps for Education

-          Includes g-mail (e-mail) accounts

-          30 gigabytes of storage per user

Microsoft Office 365 Education (A2 Plan)

-          Includes e-mail accounts

-          50 gigabytes of storage per user

The Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft’s U.S. education business, Cameron Evans said, “Microsoft has long been a committed partner to schools in helping implement technology tools that address their unique needs and meet budget requirements.  Our Office 365 Education A2 plan has been available to education institutions for free since 2012, regardless of their eRate-eligible discount level.”

Both of these applications are useful, but they do have their setbacks. For example, the Microsoft Office 365 Education application does not have free archiving capabilities, and this is a requirement for schools by state law.

Other setbacks include:

-          Privacy and security measures that are often insufficient

-          Legal terms are always subject to change with or without notice to the school

-          Additional staffing and resources for support  - there will be expenses even with a “free” application

What do you think of the latest eRate discount changes? Share your thoughts on our Blog!

To read more about e-Rate, check out another blog post!

 

Topics: educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, e-rate

E-Rate and ConnectEd Initiative Helps Improve Technology Access in K-12 Schools

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 16:07 PM

Technology has become an integral part of everyday life, which has made it necessary for K-12 school districts to try and improve technology efforts and connectivity in their classrooms.  This is the basis for the federal initiative to provide all students with high-speed broadband and mobile devices and the revamping of the program that provides discount internet access to K-12 school districts.

The E-rate program, whose modernization is set to be completed by the Federal Communications Commission this fall, will help give all K-12 schools high-speed internet access.  This will shift funding from old technologies, such as pagers, to broadband and Wi-Fi networks in order to eventually reach a goal of 99 percent of America’s students having access to high-speed Internet connections within five years.

The E-rate program was created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and connects schools and libraries to the internet at a discount of 20-90 percent. Today, more than 95 percent of schools are connected with the help of these funds, up from only 14 percent in 1996, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Greater access to technology and high-speed internet is also the main goal of President Barack Obama’s new ConnectED initiative.

According to a recent District Administration article, the four goals of the ConnectEd Initiative include:technologyinschool

  1. Upgraded connectivity: Ensuring broadband and high-speed Wi-Fi are available to virtually all U.S. students in their classrooms and libraries.
  2. Access to learning devices: Providing students and teachers with access to affordable mobile devices to access digital resources at any time in or out of school.
  3. Supported teachers: Offering professional development to help teachers use technology properly and efficiently to increase student achievement.
  4. Digital learning resources: Ensuring access to high-quality digital learning materials for students and teachers.

This uniform access to technology in all K-12 school districts will help close learning gaps and improve communication.  K-12 schools will be able to implement more blended learning programs, create more personalized learning efforts and affordably connect through modern communication channels.

Learn more about how Alert Solutions’ Communication Suite can improve communication in your school, download our brochure.

Alert Solutions for PowerSchool Users Learn More

Topics: educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, e-rate

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