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WiFi 6, 6E & Multigig – How Can E-Rate Help?

Today’s classrooms and libraries depend on fast, reliable Internet bandwidth to provide essential education and communication needs. Read on to learn how the E-rate program supports schools and libraries and the 4 key areas that may require upgrades to keep up with the demand for faster service.


At face value, you might question the title of this article.  

More specifically, you may be trying to understand the connection between the current IEEE standards governing WiFi, multi-gigabit Ethernet, and the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program. The answer lies at the intersection between increased demand for data bandwidth and the federal reimbursement program for eligible K-12 schools and libraries. 

Established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) collects monies from voice and data carriers within the U.S. to provide access to affordable communication services to all communities. The monies collected go into the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is distributed to various USAC programs (E-Rate) to extend access to all residents irrespective of distance, population, or income. 

Today’s classrooms and libraries depend on fast, reliable Internet bandwidth to provide video and remote learning for students and patrons. Significant advances in video resolution (ex: 4k to 8k), remote collaboration software, and cloud-based learning software continue to drive bandwidth demand. Additionally, many schools have since adopted a 1-to-1 device model for students and teachers, typically via laptop, tablet, or Chromebook. As such, wireless network access (802.11) has become an essential network path. Fortunately, the E-Rate program helps reimburse schools and libraries for this bandwidth and internal network connections.

However, as K-12 schools and public libraries continue to focus on delivering high-speed internet access over the wireless medium, Technology Directors and Network Administrators must seriously consider upgrading four primary areas of their respective networks:

  • Structured Cabling:
    • Migrating to ANSI/TIA Category 6/6A/7 cabling standards will deliver reliable Multi-gigabit Ethernet speeds (ex: 1GB/2.5GB/5GB).
  • Multi-gigabyte Switching:
    • Upgrading wired Ethernet switching with multi-gigabit Ethernet speeds and large uplink capacity (ex: 40GB/100GB) to complement Wireless AP assigned ports.
  • Wireless Access Points:
    • Upgrade to IEEE 802.1ax (and the pending 6E ratification) capable access points with Multi-gigabit Ethernet uplinks.
  • UTM Firewall:
    • Reconsider size, throughput, and physical connections of the perimeter Unified Threat Management firewall appliance to better scale with more considerable Internet bandwidth upgrades (ex: 10GB, fiber optic, copper, etc.).

The underlying point is this: Upgrading your network and wireless gear without considering the cabling infrastructure and the new Multi-gig standards is not a viable long-term solution. 

Here’s the good news: All of the items mentioned above and the applicable deployment services are E-Rate-eligible items.   

Vancord has an extensive history of working in the private and public K-12 space. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest news and industry insights, and subscribe to our newsletter to get helpful tips like this delivered to your inbox.


Note: This article is intended to be informational only. Please consult your E-Rate advisor for specific program rules and eligibility.

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