On July 23rd, 2014, the FCC unveiled the structure of the new E-rate program for schools and libraries. The new regulations, referred to as the 7th Report and Order, establish a revised set of rules for the E-rate program.

Every E-rate applicant should read this document. The changes it outlines will impact the operating and capital budgets of every school and library in America for years to come -- not to mention the timing and scope of technology integration.

Reading through the 176-page, 312-paragraph document can seem a little overwhelming at first. Do not despair! Here are a few tips for you as you try to digest it all:

  • Don’t get hung up on all of the details… yet. As you read the Report and Order, a hundred different “what ifs” may pop into your mind. The answers to many of your questions have not been worked out. Being proactive is generally a good use of time; however, in this case, I would encourage you not to get too far ahead of things. The FCC and USAC need time to work out all of the implementation details associated with such a significant program overhaul.
  • Communicate with your school or library decision makers and senior staff. Even though you may not fully grasp the scope of the reform coming your way, it is good to alert your organization that change is on the way.
  • Keep your eyes on Funding Year 2014. Those rules haven’t changed. Your current funding commitments (and/or pending requests) are not affected by the new rules. The FY 2015 changes are coming, but they do not change anything you have to do today for the current or previous funding years. You can and should proceed with a business-as-usual mindset for all of your current funding. After all, you don’t want to lose out on FY 2014 funding because you are overly distracted by FY 2015.
  • Seek out assistance. E-rate funding is a team activity. Those who go it alone do so at their own risk. The most effective E-rate applicants seek out support and assistance.
    • Register for USAC training, or other outreach events. Funds For Learning offers free E-rate training each month via the EdWeb community. Join us August 6th for “A Closer Look at the New E-rate.”
    • Consider engaging a professional consulting firm. If understanding the new E-rate rules feels like a full-time job, that’s because it is. If you haven’t used a consultant before, now may be the perfect time to start

E-rate reform is finally coming. Take the time now to prepare yourself, and your organization, for the new and improved FY 2015 E-rate program.