The E-Rate Program
The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, commonly known as "E-rate", provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries to help obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access services. Funding may be requested under two categories of service:
Category One: Data Transmission Services, Internet Access, and Voice Services
Category Two: Internal Connections, Managed Internal Broadband Services, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections.
E-rate supports connectivity which is the conduit for communications using telecommunications services and/or the Internet. The school or library must provide the end-user equipment (computers, telephones, etc.), software, professional development, and elements necessary to utilize the connectivity.
The discounts (or the dollars E-rate will pay) are based upon the level of poverty and the urban or rural status of the population served. Discounts can range from 20% to 90% of the costs of eligible services. Eligible schools, libraries, and their systems may apply individually or as part of a consortium.
The Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) has participated in the E-rate program as the AREN Consortium lead and billing entity since January 1, 1998. Each year the consortium membership has grown as has the number of discount dollars received for eligible schools and libraries. ASA collects a Letter of Agency (LOA) annually from all members of the AREN Consortium to verify their knowledge of and participation in the consortium. ASA as the lead files applications for the consortium members as a group and makes all necessary certifications on behalf of the group. The AREN Consortium currently consists of over 136 school systems, 26 individual libraries, and 3 library systems all located throughout Alabama.