Rhea’s E-Rate Rap

Rhea Fawley

At Connection, we participate in E-Rate. This is a federally funded program managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to help K–12 schools and libraries with telecommunications and Internet connectivity. E-Rate is a multi-billion-dollar program. As of June 15, 2018, USAC stated that not only were all applicants approved, but the committed funds have totaled over $1.18 billion for Category 2 alone.

E-Rate provides a discount from 20% to 90% on two categories. They are referred to as Category 1 and Category 2. Category 1 services include data transmission services and Internet access, and also includes voice services. However, to focus on the support of high-speed broadband for digital learning, voice services will be phased out 100% by the 2019 funding year. Category 2 services include LAN/WAN, internal connections components, basic maintenance for those components, and managed internal broadband services.

Finding out if a school or library is eligible to receive E-Rate funds is simple. For schools, it is based on their Title 1-A program. The Title 1 program for schools is also a federally funded program that give schools additional funds in order to bridge educational gaps. Title 1-A is also known as the schools free and reduced lunch program. USAC uses this program as a tool to determine if a school is eligible for E-Rate funds, and what their discount percentage will be. It does not mirror exactly the same—so if a school receives 70% of Title 1 funds, that does not mean they will be receive a 70% discount for E-Rate. Libraries are also E-Rate eligible. Since they do not have a Title 1-A program, USAC determines their discount based on the school district that the library falls under.

As a Category 2 vendor, Connection handles networking equipment that is listed as eligible to USAC standards. These items include:

  • Wireless Access Points/Wireless Controllers
  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Antennas (must be integral to the LAN/WAN)
  • Firewall Equipment
  • Internal Structured Cabling (unless solely dedicated to voice)
  • Caching Servers (these are the only eligible servers)
  • Racks that house eligible equipment
  • UPS that support eligible equipment
  • Cloud-based functionality of eligible equipment
  • Licenses for eligible equipment (can apply for multi-year license in year 1 of your contract)
  • Software that supports eligible equipment
  • Limited basic maintenance services for eligible equipment
  • Managed Internal Broadband Services (MIBS)
  • Taxes, surcharges, and other similar reasonable charges
  • Shipping charges
  • Training on how to use eligible equipment
  • Installation and configuration (not required to be the equipment vendor)

E-Rate also takes into consideration that when a natural disaster strikes and heavily impacts a school or territory, help is available via discounts for any equipment that was damaged or destroyed as long as the affected items requested are E-Rate eligible.



There are several options available to help applicants get their Category 2 services totally free.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Rhea’s E-Rate Rap to find out how!

Rhea Fawley is an E-rate Sales Specialist at Connection, specializing in the education marketplace. When she’s not helping customers solve IT challenges or navigate the E-Rate process, you’ll find her reading, writing, or taking her two young children on adventures.