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Use E-Rate to get the best for your school

Managed Services from Spectrum Business may make more sense than dark fiber

Technology and education are more linked than ever, and the everyday use of advanced communications and computing technology in the classroom has become a vital piece of the puzzle for schools and libraries everywhere. Unfortunately, while your communications needs are growing quickly, shrinking budgets can make it a challenge for you to get the right solutions for your organization.


The federal E-Rate program can help with discounts of up to 90 percent on eligible telecommunications services for qualified schools and libraries. But sifting through the Eligible Services List (ESL) and identifying the best, most cost-effective solution for your school can be daunting.

Is dark fiber the solution?

Beginning in Funding Year 2011 (FY2011), leased dark fiber was added as a Priority 1 Telecommunications service on the E-Rate ESL, allowing for the leasing of dark fiber from any entity, including non-telecom providers. This appeared to open up new opportunities in terms of bandwidth and control for many qualified schools and libraries, but in practice it may cost them more than simply relying on managed services from experienced providers like Spectrum Business.

While dark fiber was a popular and cost-effective solution for large companies in the past, it is losing ground to managed services and the change is instructional for schools and libraries looking to maximize their E-Rate discounts.

The benefits of managed services

Some who chose dark fiber are now abandoning dark fiber solutions in favor of advanced services managed by their trusted providers. There are a number of reasons for this shift in perspective, but chief among them are cost and ease of management.

  • Cost: If you are looking to run your school’s services over a dark fiber network, you need to factor in the costs of the long-term dark fiber lease, switches to light the fiber, management platforms and specialized personnel to run the network. Managed services tailored to your unique needs from Spectrum Business could save you money over the long-term.

  • Expertise: Trained experts who know how to properly manage services over your own dark fiber network can be difficult to find and expensive to keep on board. Spectrum Business employs a large staff with expertise in IT and communications networks.

  • Adaptability: With Spectrum Business, new services and bandwidth can be added to your service quickly and easily. In fact, additional bandwidth or new services are typically turned up in a matter of days, not weeks or months. And you don’t need to worry about the limitations of the dark fiber network you’ve leased, purchasing new equipment or updating your management software.

  • Growth: Dark fiber is indeed covered by E-Rate discounts, but only the portion you’ve lit yourself. If, for instance, you’ve leased extra fiber to account for future growth, the unlit portion will not be eligible for E-Rate funding. With managed services, you do not face any similar issues, receiving only what you need when you need it.

  • Accountability: When you partner with a provider like Spectrum Business for managed services, you can rely on a single point-of-contact for 24/7/365 network support in the event of outages or cable cuts. With a dark fiber solution, you’d be on your own.

  • Simplicity: The ins-and-outs of dark fiber eligibility can be confusing. It must be lit immediately to be eligible; the program does not allow for unused capacity or the warehousing of dark fiber for future use; maintenance and installation costs are eligible, but only to your school’s property line; and modulating electronics for leased dark fiber are not eligible. Managed services solutions can be more easily negotiated and adhere to service level agreements that guarantee you consistent costs and quality of service.

Count on Spectrum Business Managed Services

Spectrum Business offers a full range of managed services that are eligible for E-Rate discounts, including voice, data, network, wireless, Internet, video and more. And because we work with schools and libraries like yours across the nation, we can help you understand the E-Rate program and how to get the most out of it for your organization.

With Spectrum Business, you’ll have a dependable partner who can help you navigate the E-Rate program and offer you solutions that can help you best leverage available technology to expand your educational offerings.

Contact Spectrum Business today at 877.480.3278 to get the valuable learning, research, technology, and communication resources you need.