Hey K-12s, Let’s Talk About Non-E-Rate Purchases

The E-rate program has helped countless K-12 schools afford telecommunications services and Internet access. However, there are still a few necessary investments that E-rate doesn’t cover, such as physical security and many cybersecurity solutions.

Since the introduction of the E-rate program in the late 1990s, public and private K-12 schools across the country have received discounted telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to purchase equipment and services that strengthen their curriculum.

Though nothing is free for eligible schools, they can receive hefty discounts for Category One services (including telecommunications, telecommunications services, and Internet access) and Category Two services (such as managed internal broadband services, internal connections, and their maintenance). For example, discounts for Category Two can range between 20% and 85% depending on the school’s finances and its proximity to a metropolitan area.

Items schools often use the E-rate program to purchase include switches, routers, structured cabling, broadband circuits, firewalls, controllers, and wireless access points. While all of these purchases are vital, one category of products is glaringly missing: those tied to security. Although there are ongoing efforts to bring cybersecurity under E-rate’s scope, the program still doesn’t cover everything you need to keep your school and students safe, both physically and online. Read on to learn more about what E-rate doesn’t cover and what you can do to ensure your school is protected.

What E-Rate Doesn’t Cover

Public and private schools with an endowment below $50 million are generally eligible for E-rate, meaning there are few restrictions to access. These K-12 schools can use the E-rate program to purchase a wide variety of equipment, but E-rate won’t offer discounts on physical security or cybersecurity solutions.

Physical security

Between break-ins, vandalism, and school shootings, physical security is a must for all K-12s. However, E-rate won’t cover several items required to keep your students and staff safe, including:

  • Cameras: Cameras can be a constant pair of eyes on your school grounds, helping you spot suspicious activities and unauthorized or potentially dangerous visitors. They can even help you gather evidence after the fact. Plus, simply having security cameras in a visible location can deter everything from vandalism to bullying. After all, no one wants to be caught doing something they shouldn’t be, much less on video.
  • Smart cameras: Smart cameras take your security a step further. Instead of merely capturing videos, they can connect to the Internet and have built-in artificial intelligence (AI). Not only can smart cameras operate independently, but they also understand natural language queries and analyze footage quickly. For example, if you wanted to find footage of a man in a green hat, you could simply input that request and a smart camera would independently comb through footage to find what you’re looking for fast. With a regular camera, you would need to manually scour through hours of footage to get the same results, but this time with the added risk of human error.
  • Access control systems: These electronic systems allow authorized personnel to enter a space without needing an employee to review and validate their authorization upon arrival. Instead, they can use credentials to verify their authorization and enter the secured area without manual vetting. For example, a school’s access control system might use administrator-defined rules to only allow individuals with a code or smart card to enter the school through the side door, while everyone else would need to head through the main entrance to receive a visitor’s pass.

While both cameras and access control systems are important on their own, the best way to secure your space is by having interoperable security solutions instead of siloed ones. With interoperable systems, your cameras and access control system can communicate seamlessly, eliminating the need for human involvement and the ensuing risk of human error. Instead, they will automatically share information, which equals faster reaction times, increased safety, and the ability to better monitor entry points from a centralized system.


As with physical security, the E-rate program falls short when it comes to cybersecurity solutions. The E-rate program won’t cover:

  • Cybersecurity subscriptions: While the E-rate program does cover firewall boxes, it generally won’t provide any discounts on cybersecurity subscriptions. And, unfortunately, your firewall purchase won’t be enough to keep you protected. You’ll need an annual subscription to ensure your firewall’s data doesn’t become stale and leave you at the mercy of bad actors. For example, E-rate can be used for Palo Alto WildFire subscriptions, but it won’t cover several other cybersecurity subscriptions, such as URL Filtering, Global Protect, DNS Security, Threat Prevention, Cortex, Traps Endpoint Protection, Aperture, and Prisma.
  • Servers and storage: Servers and storage are essential for every school and are critical to meeting data demands, but they aren’t E-rate eligible. Items excluded from E-rate include hyperconverged storage and infrastructure solutions. Siloed IT infrastructures are no longer enough. You need powerful storage solutions to keep up with your advanced devices and high bandwidth demands, such as Nimble storage arrays and hyper-converged infrastructure. Nimble storage arrays offer high read and write performance, scalability, flexibility, cloud integration, and unprecedented reliability. Hyper-converged infrastructures provide tight integration between computational, storage, and networking resources and convenient, centralized control.
  • Aruba Clearpass: Aruba Clearpass enables authorized users to easily access a network and establish connections without sacrificing your network’s security. This network access control solution offers several tools through a single platform, meaning you can easily grant access credentials and see who is connected to your network at any given moment. With Aruba Clearpass, you can be confident that you have a powerful, accessible, and secure network.

Receive Guidance And True Value When You Work With TTI

E-rate can be a game-changer for K-12 schools, but the program doesn’t cover everything — which means you can’t buy all the physical security and cybersecurity solutions you need to ensure your school is safe and your students are successful through E-rate alone. You’ll need to make some purchases on your own.

That means it’s even more important to get your bang for your buck and make smart financial decisions when you’re making purchases that aren’t covered by E-rate. The good news is, working with Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) is one of the best decisions you can make! When you work with TTI, our experts can advise which technologies can make the biggest difference and help maximize your E-rate funding while also pointing you toward the best non-E-rate purchases that will keep you secure without breaking the bank. And when you partner with TTI, your relationship doesn’t end at installation. With our unique PAVTAC offering, you’ll have access to 24/7/365 support free for the first year.

Ready to see the true value that TTI offers to our partners? Contact us today!

By Tony Ridzyowski


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