What is the E-Rate program?

Coordinated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with funding from the Universal Service Fund, the E-rate program began in 1997 to help make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries.
understanding e-rate
The E-rate program helps eligible schools and libraries meet their technology needs so they can provide lifelong learning. Because of the increased need for Internet access in schools and libraries, the FCC has recently focused the E-rate program on broadband, making it a goal to significantly expand Wi-Fi.

According to U.S. News & World Report, only 4 million students in 2013 had access to broadband that provided Internet fast enough for digital learning in the classroom. In 2017, that number skyrocketed to 39.2 million. There is still a significant connectivity gap, but current growth models expect E-rate to eliminate that gap in 2020.

How does the program work?

Eligible participants include public and most non-profit K-12 schools, as well as all public and many private libraries. E-rate discounts range from 20 to 90 percent with the highest discounts going to higher poverty and rural schools and libraries. In order to receive funding, eligible schools and libraries submit a bid request and go through a competitive bidding process.

Schools and libraries have to take these steps to receive E-rate funding:

  1. First, eligible schools and libraries identify the services that they need, and they submit a request for competitive bids to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
  2. The USAC takes these requests and posts them on its website for vendors’ consideration.
  3. The school or library reviews its offers, chooses its preferred vendor, and applies to USAC for its desired purchases.
  4. The USAC approves a funding commitment for eligible applicants.
  5. Finally, the vendor provides the approved services, and the vendor or applicant submits a request to USAC for reimbursement.

What can E-rate funding be used for?

Eligible schools and libraries may request funding on telecommunications, telecommunications services, Internet access, managed internal broadband services, internal connections, and the basic maintenance of internal connections. A full list of eligible services are available on the USAC website.

Not sure where to start?

Wondering if your school or library is eligible? Not sure how to get started? Eligibility details and steps for getting started are available on the USAC website. You can also check out some of our helpful tips for E-rate success!

Riverside Technologies, Inc. (RTI) is an IT service provider that supports educational institutions with their technology needs. We help improve student classroom performance while reducing network complexity, risk, and cost. RTI helps you stay ahead of the curve and ensures you have enough coverage and capabilities for all your devices. We have years of E-rate experience and have worked with numerous school districts across the United States. The E-rate program may be complex, but we can help you navigate that process!


Riverside Technologies, Inc. (RTI) specializes in managed services, IT hardware, warehouse services, and technology deployment.

Our solutions can help you achieve your goals.

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