To help offset the costs of connecting to the Internet and providing robust internal networks, our state’s schools and libraries have leveraged the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-rate.” This federal program, now in its twentieth year, collects fees on telecommunications services and in turn provides financial offsets through the Universal Service Fund that result in discounts of up to 90 percent to help connect eligible schools and libraries. The program exists to help ensure that all schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
Despite the opportunity that E-rate affords, Connecticut has significantly underutilized the program. For example, since 2015, Connecticut schools have left a total of $22M in available matching funds untapped for Category 2 (internal network) services, with $8M set to expire this year. What can explain this shortfall, given the increasing dependence on high-speed connections to support digital learning in the context of financially challenged schools and libraries?
This report seeks to answer those questions by providing insights shared from leaders of educational institutions across the state.