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Full access to telecommunications and information resources makes possible the rich teaching and learning that take place in schools and libraries. For these institutions to provide the high level of service necessary for their students and patrons to participate fully in American society, the costs can be great. Telecommunications and Internet access, the hardware needed for assembling local networks, and maintenance of systems and machines can stretch budgets that are already under stress.
The universal service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-rate,” provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help most schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access.
The first step is to learn about eligibility and eligible services. If you are an applicant (a school, library, or consortia) or a service provider, review the application process. Once you understand the process, click on the appropriate Before You Begin link to learn about what you need to know before you file your first form.
The Schools and Libraries Program team has developed some helpful handouts to help make the application process easier to understand, including a SL Process Overview for Applicants handout and a SL Process Overview for Service Providers handout. For applicants requiring more assistance with the Schools and Libraries process, they might consider looking into the Helping Applicants to Succeed (HATS) outreach program.
For more information on the Schools and Libraries Program, review the Schools and Libraries acronyms & terms.
USAC is responsible for processing applications for support, confirming eligibility, and reimbursing telecommunications companies and Internet access providers for discounted services delivered to eligible schools and libraries. In 2011, program disbursements totaled almost $2.23 billion.
USAC reviews applications, invoices, and other program information to ensure that applicants and service providers follow rules for the program set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). USAC also conducts Schools and Libraries Program beneficiary audits to ensure program compliance.
Eligible participants include public and most non-profit K-12 schools as well as all public and many private libraries. All program participants must carry out a competitive bidding process to select the most cost-effective companies to provide the goods and/or services requested.
Once they complete the competitive bidding process, applicants submit to USAC all information required to demonstrate compliance with the rules required for receiving support. After approving applications, USAC notifies applicants of a commitment to fund the acquisition of services. When applicants start receiving services, USAC makes payments to the companies selected to provide them.
Funding may be requested under five categories of service: Telecommunications, Telecommunications Services, Internet Access, Internal Connections, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections. Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served and range from 20 percent to 90 percent of the costs of eligible services.