What's Next for E-Rate?
John Harrington, CEO for Funds for Learning, breaks down the state-of-play of federal funding for school access and connectivity.
Twenty-five years have passed since E-Rate, the most effective government edtech program to benefit public education was launched, and yet the need for E-Rate plus other government programs to upgrade and modernize the digital infrastructure of schools has never been greater. The monies are there. The processes are in place. So where are we?
I had a chance to ask John Harrington, CEO at Funds For Learning, these questions as he announced the release of its free E-rate Manager tool for schools and libraries. E-rate Manager has been the leading E-rate data analytics tool for many years, and today the latest version is available to all E-rate applicants at no charge. The data tool will allow applicants to access their current and historical E-rate filing information to make informed decisions about their connectivity needs.
A few highlights from this episode:
On the importance of maintaining sustainable funding formulas:
One of the reasons that the E-Rate program is so successful is that applicants can plan on it. They can budget around it. Not even just plan for this year, but they can look out over the next 3, 4, 5 years and come up with a really good plan. What makes the most sense? What's going be cost-effective? How can we build towards this? There's no equivalent today for the off-campus piece, for the device piece of it. Until it's predictable and sustainable, it's not gonna be a part of the ongoing day-to-day.
On what E-Rate will be supporting the next 25 years:
Each year Funds for Learning conducts a survey of eRate applicants. We're about to publish this year’s results. One of the things we ask — what are your bandwidth needs going to be? And 84% of the respondents said that they would be increasing their bandwidth in the next three years. These are the same applicants that have tripled their bandwidth over the past five years. And it's not an exaggeration to just look at these networks and recognize that they're going to be 10-xing their bandwidth utilization. Jokes about the Metaverse aside, there are holograms in the future. There are virtual reality field trips and opportunities that are, I think, going to make what we have today look sort of outdated and silly. The Star Trek, Next Generation stuff? That's not so crazy anymore.
On offering E-Rate manager for free:
We launched this tool back in 2003, almost 20 years ago. We were in the process of retooling it, rebuilding it, from the ground up as it was starting to show its age a bit. We'd gone out to create this new system with brand new APIs etc. And, we just thought, you know what? There's no better way to give back to the community than give this to the community. So it's completely free for applicants, always will be. And it just gives them access to the information they need to finish their e-rate forms, hopefully get it all in on time and, and get their school or their library system the funds they need.
Some more details on E-Rate manager:
The new tool allows applicants to view their school or library's funding history through several filters, giving them visibility into how funds have been requested, committed and disbursed.
Free registration and use available to all applicants
Funding request information available for all funding years
Access to form 470s for product and services requests
Leverages publicly available data from USAC
Funds For Learning encourages E-rate applicants to access E-rate Manager when preparing to file during the upcoming filing window.
Register for the free E-rate Manager at https://www.fundsforlearning.com/e-rate-data/erm-for-applicants. For updates regarding upcoming E-rate filing window, please visit https://www.fundsforlearning.com/news/.