What is E-rate?

  • A discount program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1996 at the direction of Congress.
  • The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) oversees the day-to-day operations of E-rate, along with three other programs.
  • The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) is the part of USAC responsible for the E-rate program.
  • E-rate is subject to an annual funding cap
  • The funding cap for the 2017-18 year was $3.99 billion
  • This cap is adjusted to meet inflation every year
  • These funds are made available to eligible schools and libraries in the United States.

Program Overview

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.