Pumpkin spice everything and jack-o-lanterns signal the beginning of a new Erate “Season” at Grant Consulting Services, LLC. Are you wondering what Erate is? Take a close look at your mobile or landline phone bill. You will see a surcharge called the Federal Universal Service Charge (or Universal Connectivity Charge). These charges are commonly listed under taxes and surcharges on your bill. Many of us don’t notice this fine print or these small taxes and surcharges. Most of us don’t know what these surcharges are for, and even though no one likes to pay extra taxes, we pay them anyway.
In this case, the Universal Service Charge is a tax for a good cause. This surcharge/tax helps pay for a portion of the costs of high-speed Internet service and much-needed equipment to schools, libraries, low-income consumers, rural healthcare providers, and consumers in rural areas.
The Erate program is known by several names, including USAC, Erate, and Schools and Libraries. Still, as a famous Playwright/Poet once surmised, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (W. Shakespeare c. 1600). I digress or perhaps impress? We lovingly refer to this program as Erate, and the funds from the Universal Service charges are dispersed through USAC to the Erate program to benefit schools and libraries specifically. An important note is that the eligible equipment mentioned above does not include laptops or Chromebooks. Funding is for internal infrastructure equipment like switches and access points that schools and libraries need to provide wireless Internet access. This program, unfortunately, does not pay for laptops, printers, smart boards, and the like. However, starting in 2024, the program has added Wi-Fi for buses as an eligible item. Not all of the details are available yet. We will have to remain calm and more patient than children waiting for their parents so they can go trick-or-treating.
The E-rate Grant year currently runs from July 1 to June 30 each year. Much like college basketball, the Erate season generally starts in October and can last until mid-March. Check out our timeline below for a rough overview! There are multiple steps to take and forms with a bunch of numbers instead of names to submit. This dizzying process can feel like being lost in a corn maze. There are specific rules, regulations, and pitfalls to avoid.
Per the USAC website (2023), applicants will navigate the process using the following seven steps:
- Needs Assessment
- Competitive Bidding
- Selecting a Service Provider
- Applying for Discounts
- Application Review
- Starting Services
- Pay for discounted services – or – Pay for services and invoice USAC for reimbursement
Grant Consulting Services, LLC has over 15 years of experience in the Erate process and has helped multiple schools across the nation receive millions of dollars for much-needed technology funding. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how we can help you maximize your technology dollars through the Erate program.
Timeline Overview of Erate Action Steps
|Determine school technology needs.|
|Submit forms to Erate, Review vendor bids, select service providers, and sign contracts when applicable.|
|Erate application review process.|
|July 1 is the start of the Erate funding year.|
E-Rate.(2023). Retrieved from https://www.usac.org/e-rate/.