Driving Innovation in Education – and Beyond – with E-Rate


By Jonna Bass, Market Development and Sales 


Readily available internet access within U.S. schools is critical to an educational system’s ability to adequately prepare our children for the future. Unfortunately, many students located in rural and underserved pockets of urban communities have limited access to high-bandwidth internet connectivity, putting them at a tremendous disadvantage. Fortunately, federal funding is helping foster new partnerships between these communities and local telecom infrastructure providers to establish more accessible internet connectivity for all students, teachers, administrators, and education executives across the U.S.

Bridging the Digital Divide with E-Rate

The FCC’s Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries, commonly known as E-Rate, directly addresses the digital divide between schools in advancing metro areas and those in more remote regions by helping schools and libraries across the U.S. obtain affordable telecommunications, internet access, and fiber infrastructure. This provides all children — regardless of location — the same access to educational opportunities. E-Rate funding helps to support fiber builds which allow providers to bring reliable, high-bandwidth internet services and campus connectivity to underserved communities.

E-Rate aims to equip educational institutions and libraries with the tools necessary to affordably scale to meet increasing bandwidth demands driven by web-based learning tools for students, education-based applications, online training resources for teachers and administrators, and the proliferation of internet-driven devices.

With help from E-Rate funding, forward-thinking CTOs have the ability to build resilient district-wide fiber networks that create necessary infrastructure for the foreseeable future. An additional benefit of widespread network infrastructure supported by E-Rate economics is that large builds can bolster the regional economy by attracting business investment in an area while also promoting the growth of existing enterprises. After all, no organization is immune to ever-growing bandwidth needs.

Playing Our Part

A strong sense of social responsibility impassions me in my role working for a service provider who constructs critical fiber networks. It’s this social responsibility that exponentially fuels my efforts working for FiberLight to educate and partner with rural school districts, libraries, and communities to proactively address the digital divide by leveraging E-Rate funding. At FiberLight, we continuously collaborate with school administrators as well as leaders in healthcare, economic development, and community growth on how to acquire necessary resources to responsibly align the goals of school districts with those of their communities.

Amarillo, Texas, my hometown, is a city committed to upgrading its infrastructure to provide top-notch education, attract more businesses, encourage innovation, and create competitive employment opportunities for its residents. Not only is the local school system our largest employer with over 4,000 people currently employed by Amarillo Independent School District (ISD), but it is also leading the region when it comes to prioritizing technological advancement. Amarillo ISD recently invested in building an optical fiber network comprised of more than 70 miles of new network. I am eagerly awaiting to see the variety of opportunities this investment will support for Amarillo as well as the region as a whole.

By regularly attending various conferences dedicated to broadband and technology innovation in the educational system, my FiberLight teammates and I bring solution providers, civic ninjas, and educators together to explore ways in which we can better equip our schools with the knowledge and tools necessary for digital transformation. Many school districts throughout Texas have engaged in the process and have published RFPs for new funding, confident they will receive support from companies like FiberLight to develop solutions customized to their needs.

It is an honor to be part of an organization which places great importance on the development of our schools and responds to the growing need for enhanced connectivity throughout our communities.