Internet Access E-Rate Discounts
Access to the Internet is gained via interconnecting network data transmission lines and distribution equipment and is critical for schools to function viably in the 21st century. It is also critical that internet access be affordable.
The infrastructure beyond the Loca Area Network (LAN) of school systems is maintained by the Northeast Nebraska Networking Consortium (NNNC) in collaboration with the State of Nebraska and Network Nebraska.1
Within a narrow window of opportunity, typically opening in mid-December and closing in mid-March, schools, school districts and consortia of these entities apply for annually available federal Internet access discount funds. Those who do not apply, do not receive.
More commonly known as "E-Rate," the Schools and Libraries program of the Universal Service Fund (USF) is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 2
The E-Rate coordinator for the NNNC is currently Diane Wolfe at ESU 2 (Fremont). The NNNC comprises approximately 100 cooperating education entities spanning 28 rural counties.
To be in a position to apply and to be audit compliant, the NNNC ESUs must ask for the following documentation from each school system:
- A Letter of Agency (LOA) is the consensual agreement that gives ESU 2 (or 1,7,8,17), the NNNC, and the State of Nebraska the authority to file for USF discounts, with an explicit understanding of the obligations for all partners.
- Because the consortia are not the "billed entity", ESUs must submit FCC Form 479 to the billed entity (schools or school district) for Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance certification.
- The NSSRS E-Rate Report (public school systems) or CDC Report (private school systems) documents student census and, as a subset, those who have qualified for free or reduced meal rates. These data are reported to the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) annually on the last Friday in September. Per an FCC USF matrix, these determine the rate of discount each district is eligible to receive (a range of 20-90 percent of billed services).
Public school superintendents (or private school principals) are asked to submit the paperwork described above by November 12, 2013 to their respective ESU. Schools may direct questions to E-rate contacts, as follows:
Educational Service Unit 1
Educational Service Unit 2
Educational Service Unit 7
Educational Service Unit 8
Educational Service Unit 17
Every school system (and ESU, etc.) must complete a seven-step, time-sensitive application process to qualify for its local share of USF (E-rate) Internet access affordability benefits, as well as telecommunications (telephone) affordability benefits.
For more information about the filing process, go to USF Schools & Libraries Program.
For more information about the responsibilities of the Child Internet Protection Act and CIPA compliance, go to Internet Safety.
1 Network Nebraska is a collaborative effort under the auspices of the Nebraska Information Technology Commission (NITC) to share telecommunications resources, network services, and applications among eligible participants.
2 Eligible schools do not receive direct funding from the program. Instead, they receive discounts on the costs of services provided by vendors. The percentage of discount each school can receive under the program ranges from 20 to 90 percent and is determined using a matrix designed by FCC, with schools located in rural and low-income areas receiving the highest discounts from the fund. The USF compensates the schools' vendors for the amount of the discount. For additional background, go to the FCC web site.