Working Together to Upgrade All Schools

The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) is collaborating with the national non-profit EducationSuperHighway to make robust Internet a reality for all schools in the state through the New Jersey K-12 Broadband Initiative. All assistance and resources through the initiative are offered at no cost to school districts or the state.

Gov. Murphy committed to ensuring New Jersey schools meet the recommended bandwidth of one Mbps (megabits per second) per student– a critical step in enabling access to online learning.

Without the critical infrastructure, school districts limit their ability to meet the governor’s goal, to meet three of the Future Ready Schools-New Jersey robust infrastructure indicators, and to engage students in the latest innovative learning options.

Preparing Your School’s Network: Take Advantage of E-rate

The federal Schools and Libraries Program, also known as E-rate, provides schools and libraries with funding support for high-speed broadband connectivity and internal connections equipment. Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, with greater discounts reserved for higher poverty and rural schools and libraries.

Through an annual application process, eligible schools and libraries can request funding support for two categories of service.

  • Category One funding support is available for high-speed Internet access, data transmission services, and modulating electronics used to transmit data within a school district’s network.
  • Category Two support helps to fund purchases of data and wireless network equipment, firewall equipment, routers, cabling, related installation, training services, as well as other types of equipment.

The Federal Communications Commission has issued a highly anticipated Report and Order (12/3/2019), that makes the adoption of the Category Two budget approach permanent with some new rules taking effect in 2021, and extends the five-year test period through Funding Year 2020 to ensure a smooth transition.

  • A central outcome of this decision is that applicants can use whatever budget they have remaining and ALL applicants will be provided with a prorated portion of Category Two funding for Funding Year 2020–increasing all applicant budgets by 20% for the current funding year.
  • School districts will still use a per student multiplier for each building ($195.63 per student before discounts).
  • Any funds that are not used this year expire and will not carry forward.
  • New rule changes will go into effect in 2021.

To learn more, about the changes and Category Two budgets for your schools, view EducationSuperHighway’s blog post: FCC Issues New Category Two Rules

Review the complete Category One and Category Two eligible services list.

As the E-rate Program’s deadlines are rigidly administered, it is important to have internal staff dedicated to understanding the rules and requirements or consult an E-rate professional.

NJSBA has partnered with E-Rate Consulting, Inc. (ERC) to help school districts and member charter schools throughout New Jersey fully leverage the opportunities available through E-rate. Learn more.

Learn more about the E-rate program rules from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

School District E-rate Timeline

February 26, 2020: The last day to certify a Form 470 and still be able to file a Form 471 for Funding Year 2020. Form 470 must be certified in EPC at least 28 days before the close of the filing window.

March 25, 2020: The last day an applicant may file a Form 471 for Funding Year 2020.

Early Spring: Start Planning

  • Develop an E-Rate “team” consisting of IT and instructional staff to define short-term and long-term educational goals (blended learning, 1-to-1 initiatives, etc.).
  • Define what you want to accomplish in the classroom.
  • Know your infrastructure and identify what it can/can’t do.
  • Define what you need from an IT standpoint to accomplish classroom goals. Defining instructional goals and IT needs (as opposed to “wants”) informs how best to leverage E-Rate.

Summer/Early Fall:Start the E-rate Conversation

  • Define future bandwidth requirements over the next 1, 2, and 3 years based on future learning objectives.
  • Work with consultant/internal staff to determine Category Two eligibility of each school building for the subsequent fiscal year.

Late Fall:Define Objectives

  • Identify high-speed broadband service options in your region.
  • Define and prioritize projects consisting of eligible Category 2 equipment based on future digital learning plans.
  • Determine budgetary needs and potential E-rate funding support necessary to deploy the required projects.

Early Winter: E-rate Application Planning

  • Solidify scope of projects for which bids will be solicited via the E-rate competitive bidding process;
  • Work with consultant/internal staff to:
    • Define any and all bidding requirements as established by the Board of Education policy or State law.
    • Draft FCC Forms 470 and accompanying specification documents, if necessary.

Late Winter/Spring: Solicit Bids & Apply for Funding Commitments

  • Initiate the E-rate competitive bidding process for eligible goods and services.
  • Analyze bids received and communicate awards to USAC.
  • Complete the application review process.

Late Spring/Early Summer: Procurement & Implementation

  • Depending on the category of service, procure and implement eligible goods and services:
    • Category 1 = July 1
    • Category 2 = As early as April 1
  • Determine an appropriate invoicing method for your district (discounted invoicing vs. discount reimbursement) and communicate the preferred method to vendors.

Free Tools & Resources

  • E-rate Webinars – Watch on-demand webinars to help you navigate the E-rate cycle.
  • Network Essentials for Superintendents – A guide that takes school district leaders through the ABCs of school broadband functionality.
  • Compare & Connect K-12 – A school broadband tool that helps school district leaders see what they are paying for Internet services compared to similar districts.
  • Case Studies – Read success stories from school districts across the country that now have access to high-speed Internet.
  • Guides and Templates – Share these best practices with your technology and business staff to support their application for E-rate funding and drive competitive bids from service providers.