E-rate Funding for Schools & Libraries

E-rate Application Process Flowchart

The Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program provides discounts to assist eligible schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access and telecommunications services. E-rate funds five service types: Data Transmission Services and Internet Access, Voice Services, Internal Connections, Managed Internal Broadband Services, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections. Discounts range from 20-90 percent of the costs of eligible services, depending on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status at the school district level. Eligible schools, school districts, and libraries, may apply individually or as part of a consortium. Note that eligible voice services are subject to an annual 20 percentage point phasedown of E-rate support that began in Funding Year (FY) 2015.

The E-rate Program supports connectivity, which is the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services or the internet. The school or library is responsible for providing resources such as the end-user equipment (computers, telephones, etc.), software, professional development, electrical capacity, and the other elements that are necessary to effectively use the requested eligible services and equipment.

The E-rate Program is one of four universal service programs funded through the federal Universal Service Fund (USF). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) appointed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the permanent administrator of the USF and the universal service programs, including the E-rate Program.

E-rate Application Process Flowchart
Internet access and many commercially available telecommunications services are eligible for discounts, as well as equipment that allows access to these services. The Eligible Services Overview gives you a general understanding of eligible products and services. You should also review the Eligible Services List (ESL) for the appropriate funding year because the entries in this list, and their eligibility, can change from one funding year to another. A funding year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30 of the following year. For example, Funding Year (FY) 2018 begins July 1, 2018, and ends June 30, 2019.
E-rate Application Process Flowchart

To be eligible for discounts from the E-rate Program, you must meet the program definition of a school or a library. If you are not sure of your eligibility status, you may need to contact your higher-level administrative agency (state department of education, state library, or other organization) to assist you.

Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent of the cost of eligible services. You can refer to the program’s discount matrix  PDF (opens in new window) for basic information on discount percentages and review information on calculating your discount to find out what your discount would be.

Note: Schools and libraries can apply on their own or they can form consortia to aggregate demand and thereby negotiate lower prices. The entity leading the consortium may or may not be eligible for discounts.

It is also possible that certain school or library students and/or facilities may also be eligible for discounts:

  • Non-instructional facility (NIF) – this category includes school buildings that generally don’t contain classrooms (e.g., school administrative buildings, school bus barns, school stadiums) or library buildings that don’t have areas open to the public (e.g., library administrative buildings, library technology centers, bookmobile garages)
  • Non-traditional elementary and secondary education – this category includes Head Start, pre-kindergarten, juvenile justice, adult education, etc.
  • Educational Service Agencies (ESA) – also called ESUs, BOCES, or other names, these are regional public service agencies that develop, manage, and provide services or programs to local education agencies
  • School Residential Facilities – starting in FY2011, the following school residential facilities became eligible for discounts:
    • Schools on Tribal lands;
    • Schools that serve children with physical, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities;
    • Schools that serve children with medical needs;
    • Juvenile justice schools, where eligible; and
    • Schools with 35 percent or more students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
E-rate Application Process Flowchart
Your school district or library system must have an E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) account to file program forms, receive notifications, and conduct other program activities. Independent schools and libraries, consortia and statewide applicants also have accounts. You must have an account administrator who manages your account, grants rights to other users, and provides or updates information on the schools in your school district or libraries in your library system. The account administrator must be an employee of the school or library organization. If you do not have an account in EPC or need assistance, call our Client Service Bureau (CSB) at (888) 203-8100.
E-rate Application Process Flowchart

If you do not have an entity number (also called a billed entity number or BEN), you will need to obtain one. In general, each school and school NIF in a school district and each library outlet/branch and library NIF in a library system must have its own entity number if it will receive discounted services. Call CSB at the number above if you need assistance with entity numbers.

Entity numbers can be assigned when setting up your online user account or by calling the Client Service Bureau (CSB) at (888) 203-8100.