Q. How do I know if my school or library is eligible for the free lines provided by the RITEAF program?
A. Most schools and libraries are eligible so long as they adhere to the requirements of demonstrating the need for subsidies by identifying the number of students in their school or district who qualify for financial aid or participate the National School Lunch Program. NSLP participation is not required, but the school MUST use the federal eligibility guidelines to determine how many of their students would qualify. Private and independent school that do not participate in the NSLP should use the current Income Eligibility Guidelines and the E-Rate discount matrix table found on the Private School Enrollment form to help determine discounts.
Q. Is there any limit to the amount of line capacity (bandwidth) my school, district or library can request?
A. The size of the line allocated to each school or library is reflected by its need as demonstrated by enrollment data, the school Technology Plan, and usage monitoring performed on behalf of the Department. The program has limited funds that must be fairly distributed throughout the state. Consideration of more needy schools and/or libraries must be a factor when choosing the size of the line allocated to your school or library. So far, no school has been denied any reasonable request.
Q. I want the free lines, but why do I have to provide student enrollment information, or sample Financial Aid information, or Certifications?
A. Subsidies are given based upon need and need must be documented in forms that allow RIDE to determine what schools/libraries require for assistance. This is done for the purposes of fairness to all schools and libraries in the state and in compliance with the E-Rate subsidies that are acquired by the Department of Education on behalf of your school/library. A failure to provide this documentation leaves RIDE unable to collect the federal subsidies.
Q. My school does not participate in the National School Lunch Program. How do I know if my Financial Aid criteria are equivalent to the NSLP?
A. Using the guidelines updated each year by the federal government, it is easy to compare the NSLP criteria to the FINANCIAL AID programs run by most schools. The most recent Income Eligibility Guidelines posted on the USDA site are enclosed, and can be used in conjunction with your Financial Aid program.
Normally each spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") publishes a revised income eligibility table for free and reduced-priced school meals. The table is important from an E-rate perspective because these guidelines are also used to determine a school's discount rate.
So far this year, new 2010-2011 income guidelines have not been released by USDA. Instead, USDA is advising schools to use the 2009-2010 income levels "until further notice." The problem appears to be that the inflationary formula used to adjust the income eligibility numbers, calculated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, uses CPI data that would result in a decrease in the income level guidelines. No one wants to see a decrease. As a result, Congress has been enacting, and the President has been signing, temporary statutory extensions to keep the 2009-2010 guidelines in effect.
Q. If all I want is the line subsidies and nothing else, do I have any other forms to submit to RIDE or the SLD (E-RATE) program?
A. You’re done as long as you have your school listed by the SLD, have been assigned a Billed Entity Number (BEN) by them, and have acquired an FCC-FRN (or CORES) number. The latter is provided by the FCC.
Q. If the lines are free, why is there a cost for the Internet Access service?
A. Accessing the Internet requires both lines and Internet service. For most home applications these components are combined for a set price, while with other commercial, large capacity applications, these two components may be separated and bid on in a competitive manner. The RITEAF program is unable to absorb the total cost for both components and therefore RITEAF only subsidizes the commercial quality lines.
Q. How is the Internet provider selected?
A. A bid is posted for not less than 28 days. (Typically RIDE posts for up to 60 days.) The potential vendor must bid on all districts and schools and provide a useful set of services to enable schools and libraries to access the Internet. Cost, features, capacity, and reliability are all taken into account in the decision. While effective filtering approaches and access to Internet2 are not deciding factors, they are desirable features. Schools or districts that choose to acquire a vendor through their own bids or other methods must acquire lines separately from this program as they may not meet ERATE requirements and could result in funding denials.