E-rate Rollover Funds: Why All Schools And Libraries Should Apply Now

Just when you thought E-rate news couldn’t get any better, it did. An unexpected $1.9 billion in rollover funds for both funding categories, and an extended application window, was announced late last month by the USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company). This time any school – no matter how big or small, rich or poor – can get those E-rate funds. All you have to do is apply.

And, the FCC wants all schools and libraries to start applying for this money starting ASAP.

E-rate then and now

Let’s step back for a minute, and put this positive news into perspective.

E-rate is a nearly twenty-year-old FCC program originally designed to help fund purchase of telecommunications services and technology in disadvantaged K-12 schools. When it was launched, the idea was, by offering $1.9 Billion funding, and creating competition among providers, schools would be given the opportunity to enter the age of interactive, individualized digital learning.

Flash forward 17 years. In a major new ruling in late 2014, and after a 17-year period of minimal funding, things finally got real. In keeping with the goal to create digitally connected environments in education, the FCC expanded the entire E-rate program to narrow the focus on $ 3.9 Billion funding to just two categories:

  • Category 1-Broadband & Internet Access
  • Category 2-Wireless Infrastructure

The expansion to include wireless infrastructure was significant because it would give schools resources in 2015 to buy the critical piece of the digital learning equation: Wi-Fi. Ultimately, there would be $1.5 billion annually earmarked for Wi-Fi.

Most funding for infrastructure ever in E-rate History

Flash forward again to present day: The application cycle in 2015 was a whirlwind, with schools across the United States going through the arduous process – and it is arduous – of applying for and receiving E-rate funds.

But, surprisingly, applications lagged and funds didn’t get used up. Only 30% of last year’s E-rate applications for Wi-Fi were submitted, which helped result in an overall $1.9 billion in 2015 E-rate funding left on the table.

This rollover has created a much bigger bucket this year, with the total E-rate budget for 2016 as much as $5.8 Billion.

E-rate 2016: Why all schools and libraries should apply

As mentioned at the start of this post, the FCC wants all schools and libraries to apply this year. Whereas previously this program was aimed at disadvantaged schools, today the door is wide open to all everyone.

If the application process seems like a hassle, here’s some math that will change your mind. A school with only 10,000 students was not in the running last year, but this year is eligible for $1.5 million. At a rate of $150 per student, it’s worth the effort of applying.

The good news is there are resources to help you with the application process, and E-rate questions in general. In fact, we will be providing regular updates on E-rate, and you can tweet us with questions any time @Aerohive.

When does the window close?

471 Window will open at Noon est. Feb 3, 2016
471 Window closes at 11:59 pm est. April 29, 2016
This means the last day to file a Form 470 is April 1, 201
  • 471 Window will open at Noon est. Feb 3, 2016
  • 471 Window closes at 11:59 pm est. April 29, 2016
  • This means the last day to file a Form 470 is April 1, 2016

How much money is available?

  • New Annual Program Budget for 2016 is $3.9 Billion
  • The FCC can roll over unused funds from prior funding years
  • The available rollover funds for 2016 =  up to $1.9 Billion
  • Total Budget for 2016 (with Wi-Fi rollover funds): Up to $5.8 Billion if demand is there

Who can apply?

  • Eligible K-12 public schools and school districts
  • Eligible K-12 Private schools
  • Eligible libraries and library consortia
  • Consortia of eligible entities (e.g., regional consortia, statewide networks)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs/Bureau of Indian Education-K-12 & Libraries
  • U.S. Territorial Education Agencies-K-12/Libraries
  • 133,000+ entities are eligible for E-rate 2.0


FAQ: Answers To Your Frequently Asked E-Rate Questions


Learn How to Apply for E-rate here.

Calculate your E-rate funding here.

Sit in on a Webinar and ask questions. See the webinar schedule here.


Amanda Henry is Editorial Director, Content Marketing at Aerohive and Editor in Chief of boundless magazine.

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