5 Tips for upgrading your Internet mid-contract

Five tips for upgrading your Internet mid-contract

If you are looking to increase your school district’s bandwidth but are in the middle of a contract, you may still have an opportunity to upgrade.

Making sure your school district has the ability to scale your Internet access over time is critical to keeping pace with demand for digital learning in the classroom. Currently, 2.3 million students do not have access to the minimum bandwidth recommended for digital learning (100 kbps/student), and many more will need to upgrade to meet the FCC 2018 goal of 1 Mbps/student.

Although many schools have the opportunity to enter the bidding process this E-rate cycle, we often receive questions from school districts leaders about whether they can upgrade in the middle of multi-year contracts. Our answer: It depends, but often there are ways to work with your service provider to achieve your goals.

Here are a few ideas for school districts looking for more bandwidth in the middle of their contract.

1. Check your most recent Form 470

If your most recently filed Form 470 includes a range of bandwidth speeds, or describes a need for sufficient fiber Internet access, you can most likely upgrade mid-contract without violating any rules. However, E-rate program rules require you to re-bid if you want to make a change to the service described in your establishing Form 470. For example, if your Form 470 describes a need for 100 Mbps of fiber Internet Access, you must rebid if you want to upgrade to 200 Mbps.

Getting ready to file your Form 470 this year? Check out our top tips for filing a 470.

2. Research state and local procurement laws

When it comes to changes in service mid-contract, keep in mind that E-rate program rules require that all changes be compliant with the applicant’s state and local purchasing and contracting laws, as well as allowable per the terms and conditions of the contract. If you have any questions, contact your state E-rate coordinator and they can help point you in the right direction.

3. Find competitive pricing on Compare & Connect K-12

Researching your district’s bandwidth speed and pricing compared to other districts can help you understand the competitive landscape in your region. This will help you benchmark where you should be, and give you a much stronger foundation on which to base the discussion with your service provider.

“Having [comparative pricing] information for negotiations made all the difference, … from my point of view, coming in with that data, pretty much put me at the top of the game. That leveled the playing field and sort of made the negotiation over.”

Brett Arbogast, Tech Director, Appomattox County Public Schools

4. Share your digital learning plans with your provider

If you are able to negotiate within your current contract, a good way to start a discussion with your vendor is to tell them about your plans for the district. You should tell your vendor how quickly you think your bandwidth demands will grow, and what your bandwidth goals are at different points in the future. Given this type of information, the vendor account team will have what they need to go back to their management to push for a longer term, scalable solution for the district.

“I have 2600 students. Based on what the state and federal government tell, me that means that my connectivity goal for 2018 is 2.6 Gbps. I want to buy more, but I can’t get there on current pricing. I ask: how can my service provider help me get there?”

Tom Lundquist, Tech Director, Staunton City School District, VA

5. Discuss with our network & procurement experts

Any network upgrade can be challenging, but EducationSuperHighway is here to help if questions come up throughout this process. With specialized network knowledge and procurement skills, our team is on hand to provide technical assistance to help your school district meet your technology goals.

With the E-rate filing window open through March 27, 2019, school districts with contracts expiring in 2019 have until February 27, 2019 to file their Form 470 to request additional bandwidth. Contact us to make sure your school district’s network is ready for the future of digital learning.