Currently, only 23% of Arizona school districts meet national affordability benchmarks for broadband access. Furthermore, many schools in the state’s most rural areas cannot access Internet that is fast enough to support digital learning and many other technological opportunities for students that are commonplace within urban centers.
Watch this video from the Arizona Corporation Commission to learn about the Arizona Broadband Initiative.
In addition to those untapped student resources, Arizona has created and made available a bevy of free or inexpensive online tools for teachers. These tools can be used for classroom instruction as well as for professional development and are not currently being utilized in many underserved areas across the state. Oftentimes, service providers struggle to make a high enough return on investment to dedicate resources and build infrastructure out to the most remote schools.
Arizona’s vision is for schools statewide to have scalable, affordable and reliable Internet access. With access to high-speed broadband, students can take remote classes and receive digital learning opportunities that they never knew existed. Educators will be able to dramatically enhance their professional development capabilities and communities will be transformed by the cultural and economic benefits of simply being connected to the Internet.
As part of the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative, ADE will be working with Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to make the most of the E-Rate dollars available to them. E-Rate is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The program provides discounts to assist U.S. schools and libraries in their efforts to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. The USAC fee, found within the line items of an ordinary phone bill, is how E-Rate funds are collected on a monthly basis.
Currently, there are $3.9 billion available to the E-Rate fund on an annual recurring basis. E-Rate disbursements are based on the NSLP percentage (free and reduced lunch program) and can be as high as 90 percent, which is the percentage of schools Arizona is targeting with its broadband program.
$71 million of that $81 million came in the form of telecommunication services (Category 1). The remaining $10 million was earmarked for routers, switches, access points and cabling featured under Category 2.
Already, the E-Rate program in Arizona has assisted 3.2 million students, improved the infrastructure of 2,229 buildings and benefitted 545 schools. The state has improved from procuring just 33 percent of its requested E-Rate funds in 2008 to obtaining roughly 90 percent of its funding requests now, allowing technology to reach more Arizona students than ever before.
Today, with the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative receiving assistance from the nonprofit organization EducationSuperHighway (ESH), there is no better time for an LEA in Arizona to dramatically increase its infrastructure and receive Internet build-outs at potentially no cost.
With a 10 percent Arizona state match, E-Rate will provide an additional 10 percent for infrastructure build-outs. For example, if a school has an NSLP percentage of 80, instead of the school attempting to raise the remaining 20 percent of funds, the state match will fund 10 percent and E-Rate will then cover the final 10 percent
In 2015, Arizona received an all-time high for one year with $81.3 million in committed funding. Now, with the assistance of ESH, no limit on Category 1 expenditures for telecommunications, and the additional 10 percent of E-Rate funds made available through the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative, we have an incredible opportunity to address Arizona’s broadband needs.
With a 10-1 return on investment, this is an ideal way to fund such an important initiative and finally provide students in rural Arizona access to the same tools as their peers in metro areas.
470 Posting with RFP for Telecommunications Services posted by 1-1-2017
Wait a minimum of 28 days from posting your Form 470 to begin evaluating bids to allow time for all bidders to respond, then select the solution that fits your needs with overall cost being the heaviest weighted factor. (Execution of contract should be contingent upon funding approval)
Review bids and make award with a condition on your contract that you must receive E-Rate Funding for contract to be valid.
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