E-Rate News: Smallest School District in Idaho Receives Funds to Complete Fiber Project in the St. Joe Valley


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Recently, the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) announced the approval of partial funding to provide 100 Mbps fiber internet access to Avery School District in Calder, Idaho through the Universal Services Fund, commonly called ‘E-Rate.” The Universal Service Fund is administered by a nonprofit organization, The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC), which works on behalf of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to partially reimburse schools and libraries for eligible Internet connectivity expenses.

The total cost of the project is just under $2.8 million dollars. USAC will pay 90% of the total cost, leaving 10% as the Avery District portion, which will be covered by the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) funds through the Idaho State Department of Education as part of this matching program and an additional match from the FCC.

Northwest Council for Computer Education, a not-for-profit E-Rate and professional development services organization, has been working with Avery School District to get fiber from Plummer to Calder for more than three years. “In a joint effort with NCCE, the Idaho State Department of Education, and Avery School District, we applied for E-Rate funding for a special construction project to deploy high-speed broadband,” stated Superintendent Vian. “Currently, our students and the surrounding rural communities do not have reliable access to the internet and often do not have cell service.” he added. “Approval for our special construction project…will be like bringing electricity or telephone service to our area.”

Currently, the District has a satellite connection which allows teachers access to the Internet but the 3Mbps total connection falls well short of the 1 Mbps/per student recommendation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Avery is one of the few communities in the state left that is not connected by fiber. It’s hard to believe that it is 2019 and our staff and students do not have access to broadband services needed to work, learn, and communicate but it is true,” stated Vian. Fortunately, there are programs like USAC that serve people in rural, under-served, and difficult-to-reach areas.

“This is going to be a game changer for Avery School District and the 9,000 or so living along the roughly 35-mile route that will receive connectivity,” stated Heidi Rogers, NCCE CEO. “Not only will Avery students have access to the same quality of education as other students in the state, this may also allow the school district to grow and prosper,” Rogers added.

As part of the application process, NCCE facilitated a competitive bid process on behalf of the District last fall. Fatbeam, an Internet service provider from Coeur d’Alene, won the bid and expects to start construction this summer. “While the District only needs one strand of fiber to meet its broadband needs,” says Eric Chambers, NCCE E-Rate Director, “it is actually more cost effective to run multiple strands of fiber along the route.” “This means,” Chambers continues, “the provider will be able to make additional strands available to businesses which in turn might offer residential services along the entire route.”

Chambers, who has 15 years of experience with the E-Rate program, understands collaboration is essential for successful applications. “We are especially grateful for Idaho State Department of Education Chief Technology Officer Chris Campbell’s dedication and support for our application at the state level. Their team went out of their way to provide as much assistance as possible to help make this happen,” stated Chambers.

NCCE provides comprehensive E-Rate services to schools around the country!  You can find out more about our E-Rate services at our E-Rate website, or by contacting NCCE’s Director of E-Rate and Special Services, Eric Chambers.  Follow Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn channels for more E-Rate tips and tricks!

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