What Is E-rate?
E-rate helps public libraries and schools connect users to the Internet, fast. E-rate is a federally-funded program offering 20-90% discounts on high-speed broadband, and the equipment and support services that make that connectivity work.
Routers, switches and other equipment necessary to deliver Internet to your users, and maintenance contracts on that equipment.
User equipment --computers, laptops and tablets-- are not eligible for discounts. For more detail, check the E-rate Eligible Services list.
- Public Library – You are eligible.
- School Library - Your school or school district will apply for you.
- Academic Library – In most cases, you are not eligible.
- Special Library – You may be eligible if you are a member of the Massachusetts Library System and provide direct public service.
There are a few exceptions. Check the Schools and Libraries eligibility definitions or contact us if you have questions.
Should You Apply?
Libraries users and staff need fast, reliable Internet access.
The FCC has adopted ambitious new Internet bandwidth targets (WC Docket No. 13-184 Para 3):
- Libraries serving less than 50,000 people: 100Mbps
- Libraries serving 50,000 people or more: 1Gbps
E-rate helps to make Internet bandwidth affordable, but there are caveats.
E-Rate and CIPA: Do You Need to Filter?
For most E-Rate services, including Internet, you must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act. This is a significant barrier for many public libraries. CIPA requires you to provide a technology protection measure, or filter, for all library computers. Discounts on Internet, equipment, managed Wi-Fi, and basic network maintenance all require CIPA compliance.
The E-rate process is rigorous and can take time, though applicants get better and faster with experience. E-rate means multi-step applications and procurements, understanding what all the certifications mean, working with service providers to make the discount billing and reimbursents work, and good record keeping. If your expected discounts are not that significant, the overhead may not be worth it.