Technology is prevalent in most of today’s K-12 institutions, and schools and libraries need support to keep their IT infrastructures up-to-date and secure. The E-Rate program was created to enable our nation’s schools and libraries to purchase the necessary products and services with efficiency, quality and value in mind.
What is E-Rate?
The federal government created the E-Rate program in 1996 to support technology purchase funding for schools and libraries. Back then, only 14% of U.S. K-12 classrooms had access to the Internet. Now, nearly all schools and libraries can have access with the support of E-Rate and efforts by state and local governments.
Through E-Rate, schools and libraries may receive discounts for connectivity services such as telecommunications and internet access; other discounts are given for infrastructure needs, such as maintenance connection services. Schools and libraries can receive 20% to 90% discounts for their purchases; those that are in high-poverty and rural areas typically receive the higher discounts.
The E-Rate program has five service types that fall in one of two funding categories. The funding may be requested under two categories of service:
Each year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which heads up the E-Rate program, releases an “Eligible Services List.”
For Fiscal Year 2015, the FCC increased the cap for the program to $3.9 billion and the FCC adjusted the rules so the cap moves with inflation fluctuations. Additionally, USAC projected that $1.9 billion in unused funds were available for E-Rate in FY 2016.
High Demand Products and Services Being Bought Through E-Rate
With the opportunity for funds, schools and libraries search for opportunities to improve their IT infrastructures and connectivity.
Onvia’s database of government procurement spending data collected more than 34,000 E-Rate bids since January 2015.
Lit fiber (i.e. major bandwidth connectivity) is by far the most requested service. THE Journal reported in June 2016 that spending for the lit fiber has reached $1.3 billion in FY 2016 funds, before the discounts. The next closest total funding requested is for telephony services at $256 million, followed by $86 million in funding for wireless data services.
Other noticeable services being requested in high demand include: Internet service providers, network services, computer repair and cyber security services.
Here are a few examples of recent E-Rate bids found in Onvia’s comprehensive database of government procurement data:
E-Rate Opportunities are Available Nationwide
E-Rate bid opportunities are available across the United States. The most bids from January 2015 to June 2016 came out of New York State (2,309). Following the Empire State are Texas and California, which are often leaders in overall government contract spending.
Here’s a map of the top 10 states publishing the most E-Rate bids:
The Easiest Way to Find E-Rate Bids & RFPs
Businesses who use Onvia and target E-Rate opportunities are able to easily search for current, past, and future E-Rate opportunities, as well as E-Rate awards, all in a single location. When researching within Onvia’s business-to-government (B2G) intelligence system, Onvia clients can use a special filter specifically for E-Rate program data. See below for a screenshot showing where to find this filter: