Magazine article District Administration

New E-Rate Savings Bring Speedy Internet to More Students

Magazine article District Administration

New E-Rate Savings Bring Speedy Internet to More Students

Article excerpt

E-Rate funds kept at least one district connected to the internet through testing--and opened the door for a 1-to-1 initiative rolling out this fall.

The Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana used to restrict internet access, only granting certain streaming websites to teachers by request. For example, music teachers would be the only ones with access to streaming music--locking out others in the district. And during state testing, schools would disable streaming to ensure exams were not affected.

But thanks to 2015 rule changes in the FCC's E-Rate program, which gives discounts to schools and libraries for internet upgrades, that will change this fall.

Located an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, Lafayette is a hub for offshore drilling companies. But when oil prices took a dive, the board didn't believe voters would support an infrastructure tax.

So the district applied for E-Rate funds, which gives discounts on campus infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi connections for classrooms.

With nearly 70 percent of the district's 31,000 students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, Lafayette received an 80 percent discount on $3.5 million, the total cost of upgrades. "I would not be able to accomplish this without E-Rate funds," says LaShona Dickerson, district technology director.

Outfitting individual classrooms with wireless access points can range from $150,000 for an elementary school to $300,000 for a high school. …

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