E-rate Frequently Asked Questions
- What is E-rate?
- What is E-rate designed to do?
- What is eligible for E-rate funding?
- Who manages E-rate?
- Can my library apply for E-rate reimbursement for telephone service?
- Is it worth the time and effort for my library to apply for E-rate reimbursement?
The Schools and Libraries Universal Service Program, commonly known as E-rate, helps schools and libraries to obtain affordable telecommunications services, broadband Internet access and internal network connections. E-rate provides $2.25 billion in discounts annually for advanced, affordable telecommunications services, Internet access and internal connections to public libraries and public and private schools.
The promise of E-rate is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information.
Services eligible for E-rate discounts include Internet access, data circuit connections, internal connections, and local, long distance, and cellular telephone service. For more information and a complete list, see the USAC’s Eligible Services List.
The E-rate program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Specifically, USAC is responsible for processing the applications for support, confirming eligibility, and reimbursing service providers and eligible schools and libraries for the discounted services. USAC also ensures that the applicants and service providers comply with the E-rate rules and procedures established by the Commission.
If your library has its own account with a telephone company that participates in the E-rate program, then you may apply for E-rate reimbursement for most or all of your telephone service. If your library's telephone service is provided by way of an agreement with another organization (such as your municipality), then the answer is maybe, depending on the ability to identify accurately and separate the library's expenses for the service. If your library's telephone service provider does not participate in E-rate, then the answer is no.
Most Maine libraries participating in E-rate receive 70% in reimbursement to their telephone bills. Based off of this approximation, you can estimate your savings by calculating 70% of your yearly telephone service expenses. The actual percentage can vary from 20% to 90%.
For libraries that receive 90% discounts that are either constructing a new building or are adding or replacing wiring in a current building, the costs of wiring and network hardware may also be viable for reimbursement.