Getting a discount on something you’ve purchase is always a little exciting. We all like to feel like we’re getting a bargain and saving money. After all, who doesn’t need some extra cash? Budgets always seem to be tight.

This is especially true for schools and libraries. Funding is frequently limited and in tough fiscal times state and local governments need to make cuts with education often feeling the brunt. That’s where the Schools and Libraries Program, also known as the E-rate Program, comes in. E-rate enables qualified school and libraries to receive discounts ranging from 20 percent up to 90 percent on telecommunications and information services in order to make them more affordable.

How does a school or library qualify for discounts through E-rate? The chief requirement is compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (***) which was enacted by Congress back in 2000. *** is designed to protect students from obscene or harmful content on the internet. To comply with the *** mandates, schools must show that they have an internet security policy in place that includes technology protection measures. *** certification also requires that the school’s internet safety policy include monitoring of students’ online activities and education of minors on appropriate online behavior.

The list of services eligible for discounting comes from the FCC. The Eligible Services List (ESL) is divided into two funding categories, aptly named Category One and Category Two. Category One services bring a particular service to a school such as internet access and phone. Category Two services operate onsite within the school boundaries. Examples include firewalls, wireless access points, switches, caching, WAN optimization and cabling.

As an individual, finding a discount on something we want to purchase tends to be pretty simple, whether it’s sifting through print material or finding a code online. For schools and school districts applying for E-rate discounts the process is slightly more challenging. Applicants must complete FCC Form 470 to advertise open bids from prospective providers. The bidding process remains open for at least 28 days during which vendors submit quotes. Once the bidding process period has ended, the school evaluates all the bids and chooses the vendor who will provide the services. The entire process from bid to purchase can take 6-9 months. It’s a little more complicated than this, but that’s the general idea.

If you’re a school, school district or library in need of network security, can E-rate help? The answer is absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, firewalls, wireless access points, switches and other products security vendors offer are typically eligible for discounts within Category Two. The firewalls will protect your network from a variety of cyber attacks including ransomware which has seen a resurgence. The use of high-speed wireless is almost ubiquitous in classrooms these days and can be secured by having all wireless traffic scanned by the firewall. WAN optimization improves the student online experience by enabling WAN applications to run faster.

Finding these products from a single vendor doesn’t have to be difficult. SonicWall can help. Download our white paper, “K-12 network security: A technical deep-dive playbook” for information on our network security solutions to learn how.

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