Understanding E-Rate Funds: How to Use Them for Improved Technology

Using E-Rate Funds for Improved Technology
  • October 25, 2023

Leverage E-Rate funds for better technology.

With many of today's teaching materials going digital, technology has become an integral part of the school day. When the network powering these devices experiences downtime, it can bring the classroom to a standstill. For this reason, it's crucial to minimize network tech support issues and promptly resolve problems.

Too often, educational facilities don’t have access to the support they need.

“Schools are having more issues retaining technical talent with network expertise,” says Anthony Nabower, Senior Network Engineer with Prime Secured and former K-12 educator. “Plus, there are now more devices on these networks than ever, and they’re becoming more complicated.”

Fortunately, help is available. Many learning centers are currently utilizing the U.S. Government’s E-Rate program to pay for hardware and installation. But many learning centers don’t realize that, in some cases, E-Rate funds can also be used to help pay for managed services, which could solve many of their networking woes.

In this article, learn how managed services keep systems up and running so students don’t lose valuable instructional time and how E-Rate funds can be used to cover a portion of the costs.


Managed Services and E-Rate for Better Education Technology

Professionals in education are likely familiar with the E-Rate program. Brought into existence as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the federal program provides funding for learning centers—such as schools and libraries—to pay for telecommunications, internet access, and internal networking.

The goal of the program is to ensure learning centers have access to these services, regardless of location, to support the highest-quality learning experiences possible for students.

School Computer Lab

The concept of managed IT services is new to the education space, many schools may not realize that the program's funds can be utilized to cover most of the costs associated with managed services. Not everything is eligible, of course, but recent requests to fund hardware and service packages have been approved by the government, which has opened a new avenue for funding that learning centers can use to maintain networks.

What E-Rate DOES Cover for Managed Services

  • Networking Equipment

  • Necessary Software

  • Support and IT Response

What E-Rate DOESN'T Cover for Managed Services

  • Live Monitoring

  • Aruba ClearPass**

Managed services packages may include items, such as ClearPass, that aren’t typically covered by E-Rate, but you might pay a lower rate on such services or software because they are bundled in the package where you can take advantage of the managed services provider’s bulk purchasing ability. In addition, you may be able to benefit from related built-in support that managed services brings.

In many ways when a school switches to a managed services program, it can mean much more bang for their E-Rate buck when it comes to keeping instructional hours productive.

Download our Managed IT for Education Service Package for a better understanding of the program.


The Benefits of IT-Managed Services for Schools and Learning Centers

Traditionally, purchasing networking equipment with E-Rate funds means that funding pays for the equipment and installation and then you manage it on your own. This method, however, could be depriving learning centers of valuable expertise that could help them quickly solve problems and prevent networking issues from wreaking havoc on learning schedules.

Learning centers don’t always have access to the IT support they need. They may have a small tech support department or sometimes even a single employee with general computer skills who can solve small issues but doesn’t have the expertise or experience to solve network problems quickly. With the recent labor shortage on top of that, many learning centers are having difficulty managing connectivity problems.

When working with a managed services provider such as Prime Secured, you don’t have to decide what to buy or manage the network on your own. Your relationship with the company doesn’t end when the equipment is installed. Instead, the managed services provider is ready and waiting to assist you through networking issues. Armed with indispensable expertise gained through service to many customers, a managed services provider is well-equipped to handle any interruptions you might experience and get your team back to teaching.

And because the networking equipment is provided through a managed services model, you no longer need to worry about equipment becoming old or outdated. A managed services provider automatically updates your equipment at the optimal time, ensuring that your network is secure and stable and isn’t falling behind.


The Risks of a Faulty Network in Schools and Learning Centers

There are two primary concerns when networks aren’t working. The first is lost instructional time, because the ultimate objective of teachers and schools is educating.

“Anymore, every kid has a device. A lot of the curriculum is internet-based, and, if a network goes down, there is no doubt that it impacts learning in a big way,” said Dave Kanne, Prime’s Senior Business Development Manager.

Frustrated with Technology

The second concern is security. Network equipment—particularly the firewall—is a big part of what keeps unwanted visitors out of any system. When a firewall fails, it can leave both children and data vulnerable. Managed services not only keep your equipment up to date so systems aren’t as vulnerable, but they can also provide forensics so that if a breach does occur, you know how to prevent it in the future.

“As your managed services provider, we can use our knowledge and skill to help you keep unwanted devices off your network and your firewall updated, but we also can provide logging services so when something does happen we can go back and find out exactly what went wrong,” said Kanne.

It’s a reality that old equipment is often more vulnerable to security failure, not only because of its age but because those who are trying to gain access to systems likely will be more familiar with it. Managed services can be a great boon to security by fighting against that reality—your provider keeps the hardware you use up to date as a part of the contract AND saves you the hassle and expense of buying all new equipment.


Prime Secured Can Help Improve Your Organization's Network

Everyone knows it’s important to keep your network secure and stable. For centers that are worried about how they’ll provide that stability with limited access to tech support, using a managed services program funded in part by E-Rate can be a great solution.

Prime Secured has the expertise necessary to solve network problems fast, while keeping equipment up to date. Our managed IT offering allows you to get up and running at a fraction of the cost of putting together an in-house IT department operating at the same level.

Here’s a bonus: We connect you with E-Rate program experts who can help ensure your E-Rate application is in order, so you’ll have the best possible chance for project approval.

Your network is essential to minimizing technical problems, resolution time, minimizing costs, and providing students with the most valuable learning time possible. If you think managed services could be a solution to your networking woes, visit our contact page to request a time to meet with us.