Internet access is something that is useful across all spheres of society. Whether it is an individual surfing search engines for details on a restaurant or a businessman seeking to connect to customers across the world or even an academic entity such as a school that is looking to use technology and telecommunications for better learning opportunities – Internet access can make a remarkable change in everybody’s life. As far as academic entities are concerned, in the USA, the Universal Service Administrative Company delivers something known as E- Rate which helps provide Internet access to a vast network of schools and libraries in the USA.
How does it work?
The USAC works under the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that such Internet access remains affordable and effective. E- Rate was conceptualized to be a support program and is also sometimes known as the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund. This program is characterized by a few aspects such as:
- Being one of the four programs that are funded by the universal service fees which is provided by companies which are into telecommunication services
- its funds are derived mainly from categories such as maintenance of internal connections and telecom services and Internet access to name a few
- being cost-effective so that schools and libraries can enjoy better connectivity all over
It is indeed very interesting to note that the E- Rate program has had a lot of benefits and effects as far as public schools and libraries in the USA are concerned. For instance in a study conducted a few years ago by the Department of Education, it was revealed that Internet access in public schools has gone to 95% from an earlier level of 35%. Classroom access has also gone up to a 63% level from 3%. An extended benefit of using this E- Rate program is the fact that students can increase their test scores and economic institutions can enjoy higher graduation rates as well.
The E- Rate program is essentially a discounted telecom services program which has benefited a large number of public schools, libraries and nonprofit private schools as well. The range of discounts that this program offers is anywhere between 20% and 90%. This range takes into account factors such as location and economic need of the applicant. Discounts are also given based on eligibility criteria laid down by various federal mechanisms and the National School Lunch Program. For instance if the percentage of students that qualify for the National School Lunch Program is anywhere between 50 and 74% and the school is in a rural location then it will be eligible for a E- Rate discount of 80%.
Among the range of eligible services covered by this program lie email, basic phone services, dial-up Internet access and leased data circuits. Internal connections such as switches, network servers and central system operating software are also covered. Applying for an E- Rate discount should begin with the school having a technology plan and meeting the criteria laid down on the website for this program.