The Fight for Digital Access: How FiberLight and E-Rate Converge to Create Opportunity for K-12 Educators and Students

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Across the world and throughout every vertical, a connection to the internet—and the associated capabilities that come with it—is imperative for delivering value, opportunity, and service to an increasingly digital world. In K-12 education, this shift and the increasing importance of capable communications infrastructure and abilities is no different.

In contemporary schooling, the importance of the internet as a tool cannot be overstated, and its applications are virtually endless. Digital transformation is changing the way students learn by allowing access to far more information that extends beyond the textbook, expanding opportunities with distance learning and virtual classrooms, and fundamentally altering the way education is completed with electronic testing, online exercises, and beyond. With an established value of $190 billion in 2018, the e-learning market is projected to grow at a seven percent CAGR over the next five years to reach a value projection of $300 billion.

Unfortunately, many students in rural or underserved regions have limited access to high-bandwidth internet connectivity. A disadvantage that can have potentially momentous impacts on students’ abilities to keep up and be prepared with the knowledge and skills they require.

Establishing E-rate basics

To support educational evolution and bridge the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the E-rate program—otherwise known as the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries. Created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, this program helps schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband, providing discounts on certain services and products that are essential for classrooms and libraries to receive internet connections. While eligibility depends on a range of criteria, discounts can span anywhere from 20 to 90 percent of the cost of eligible services, making a critical difference in resources for rural, underserved and poverty-affected locations and their communities.

Over time, as the telecom sphere has evolved to deliver new capabilities, so too has the program. In 2015, an E-rate modernization order amended the eligible services list to support the equal treatment of lit and dark fiber services, meaning that school districts will be able to purchase either kind of service depending on their specific needs.

While the importance of digital capability is clear and mechanisms are in place to help those in need afford the connectivity they require, delivering that value and opportunity comes down to having the right infrastructure in place.


FiberLight enables districts with high-capacity lit and dark fiber

While CTOs and CIOs are empowered by E-rate to implement resilient and capable district-wide infrastructure, the success of these measures often comes down to allying with a provider that understands the needs of educational institutions. Since new and expanded options are being covered under E-rate—and since there is often a gap in understanding dark fiber solutions—FiberLight is on a mission to ensure that K-12 school districts can leverage the access it needs to thrive with high-capacity lit and dark fiber solutions.

Education is no different than any other vertical in that it’s looking to meet an array of digital challenges that are evolving and expanding by the day. Schools and libraries require heightened security, reliability and bandwidth capacity to support new applications that can reinvent the learning experience and access capabilities for students and communities.

At FiberLight, we look to partner with schools, libraries and communities not only to help them understand how dark and lit fiber solutions can position them for success, but to serve as a trusted partner that can build that future with them. This has led us to forge successful partnerships that architect powerful networks, such as our project in Amarillo, Texas, which serves the Amarillo Independent School District (AISD) and the greater Amarillo business community with high-speed fiber services.

Dark fiber network solutions, when paired with a partner that supports long-term growth, deliver near limitless scalability, enhanced security and control and augmented speed while still offering flexible financing options to meet the cost pressures that these entities must often manage. When it comes to E-rate empowerment, it’s vital to partner with a provider that serves a purpose beyond basic broadband deployment. Providers looking to bolster the success of communities should support entities in their long-term goals and be willing to turn over assets for community management if desired, offer both lit and dark options or help with managed services.

In this way, the right networks and partners allow students, teachers and districts to shed limitations and constraints and achieve academic goals and community empowerment into the future. These networks serve administrators and educators as a tool, helping them drive their curriculum needs across many devices and applications

FiberLight hires veteran E-rate specialist

This past year, the FiberLight team has increased its dedication to these use cases and to the community growth they facilitate. We have welcomed a new team member and National E-rate Program Director, Carrie David. Carrie has over two decades of experience as a strategic specialist and vetted consultant partner to federal funding program clients and entities across IT, education and network solutions support teams to assist communities, schools and libraries in their efforts to obtain affordable, dependable internet services.

In the evolving landscape of communications, delivering next-generation capabilities is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity—especially for the growing minds of future generations.

Offering equal internet access is a social responsibility that all must embrace on this path to the digital future, and at FiberLight, we welcome this opportunity to serve as an ally.

To learn more about how high-capacity lit or dark fiber network services can benefit your community or school district, please connect with Carrie.

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