Several area schools recently received an education on the changes to the Federal E-Rate technology funding program at a lunch & learn event sponsored by Ritter Communications.
The lunch program was presented by E-Rate expert, Becky Rains, who explained the changes in the forms, filing procedure, and the updated rules for the fund. Ms. Rains has been involved with E-Rate since its beginning. She is the former E-Rate coordinator for the State of Arkansas, and is currently a consultant with New York based E-Rate Central which has been involved with e-rate at the local, state, and national levels since the program's inception in 1997.
“Becky’s knowledge of the specific E-Rate rules and regulations makes her a great resource”, said Director of Business Sales, Kyle Keith. “She was able to explain the changes in E-Rate and answer all of the schools’ questions.”
K-12 schools, libraries, and educational service agencies use the E-Rate program to offset technology initiatives in their respective organization.
Of the many changes this year, the one that seems to impact schools the deepest is the gradual defunding of telephone services. Telephone services, including paging, cellular, and Voice over IP systems will be reduced by 20% per year, until they are fully defunded. Other services such as email, web hosting, and voicemail will be completely ineligible next year.
According to Rains, these services are being eliminated to free up funds that can be used to provide better broadband to more schools. The focus of E-Rate is being narrowed to just include delivering broadband to the classrooms.
“Schools will definitely have to pay for more of their technology out of pocket, but we are evaluating the individual needs of the schools we serve to help them as much as possible,” Keith stated.
About Ritter Communications:
Ritter Communications is a regional broadband telecommunications provider serving 59 communities and more than 45,000 customers in northeast and north central Arkansas and west Tennessee with a full suite of communications services. Headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Ritter continues to expand its services including local and long distance phone service, high speed Internet, broadband Internet, Managed Voice, data center services, Ethernet connectivity, customized networking and hosted applications. Ritter invests heavily in the communities it serves by deploying proven, best in class infrastructure and technology while pairing it with a world class customer focused experience.