Price isn’t the only deciding factor when finding an ISP that’s right for your district.
More school districts have access to broadband internet than ever before. And E-Rate is a big reason why. According to a 2023 E-rate trends survey, 94% of applicants agree that E-Rate is vital to their Internet connectivity.
That’s the good news.
However, now that more schools are connected, keeping them connected safely and securely is another challenge. Not only do 84% of those same respondents expect bandwidth needs to increase in the next three years, but the survey also reported many K-12 network decision-makers and admins feel they’re not adequately prepared for tomorrow. A survey from the Consortium for School Networking revealed that network security and building adequate network infrastructure remain chief concerns.
That’s why school districts need to work with a network connectivity partner able that’s able to provide reliable, attentive support – in addition to competitive pricing.
But determining which provider is right for your school district? That’s the struggle. A recent McKinsey report that looked at how districts were spending funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund (ESSER) found that 37% of school admins said that vendor quality was an ongoing issue.
As the ESSER program winds down and districts start using E-Rate for their primary technology budget support, that vendor problem is likely to remain – particularly with the complexities inherent in the E-Rate program.
Regional ISPs to the Rescue
That’s why, when evaluating technology vendors, factors such as local support, responsiveness, customization, community investment, and compliance familiarity have an important impact. For those criteria, regional providers often have the advantage over large national brands.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider a regional network provider when looking at E-Rate vendors:
Local Support Teams Are From the Community
One of the primary benefits of choosing a regional network provider for your E-Rate services is the availability of a local support team. Local technicians understand the unique challenges and requirements of your area – e.g., unique geography, weather events – enabling them to provide knowledgeable, tailored assistance.
For network providers that own and control their own network, troubleshooting connectivity issues or addressing network infrastructure concerns are easier and faster than large, complicated networks that have been patched together. The local support team ensures efficient on-site support, minimizing downtime and disruption. Their proximity allows for quicker response times, enabling faster resolution of issues and keeping your educational institution’s network running smoothly.
Better Network Performance
While larger ISPs may have brand recognition, they have often grown by focusing on residential customers, adding smaller networks and cobbling them together. Not only does this make it harder to diagnose problems in the network, but the system is typically not able to handle high bandwidth requirements effectively.
But regional providers are often building local networks from the ground up – which gives them the advantage when your school district needs a custom solution to address a unique networking challenge. This customization allows for the implementation of robust security measures, content filtering policies, and bandwidth allocation strategies that cater specifically to the educational environment. A tailored network infrastructure ensures a seamless and secure digital learning experience for students while empowering educators with the necessary tools and resources.
With a localized focus, regional providers can provide competitive pricing that fits within budget constraints while ensuring reliable and high-quality network services. By leveraging their understanding of the local market, these providers can deliver cost-efficient solutions without compromising on the performance and support required for educational institutions. Plus, regional networks are often younger and hungrier, which means they’re willing to offer more creative and cost-effective solutions that can fit within your budget constraints.
They’re Connected to the Community, Too.
Choosing a regional network provider for your E-Rate services goes beyond technical considerations – it aligns with community investment. Regional providers are made up of people who live, work, and send their kids to the schools in your district. They’re deeply connected to the local educational landscape and are invested in the success of the communities they serve. They often participate actively in local educational initiatives, contribute to community development, and collaborate with schools and districts to foster digital literacy and technology integration.
They Know the E-Rate Process
Navigating the complex landscape of compliance requirements in K-12 education can be challenging. Regional network providers possess an in-depth understanding of compliance regulations specific to the local area. They are familiar with E-Rate program guidelines and can ensure that your network infrastructure meets the necessary compliance standards, reducing the administrative burden and ensuring a smooth E-Rate application and reimbursement process.
Making the Right Choice for Your District
Ultimately, when your school district is looking for a provider for network services, it’s important to remember the old adage “penny wise, pound foolish.” Sometimes going with the lowest-cost provider means you’ll pay more in the long run because you don’t have the network performance, ongoing support, and attentive service you need from a connectivity provider. Consider all your options, and take a second look at the regional providers in your area.
If your school is looking for guidance with its E-Rate program, Uniti can help. We have helped over 200 school districts build the network to meet their education needs.
Contact us today for a Free E-Rate Network Assessment.