Understanding E-Rate Discounts and How Your School May Benefit

E-Rate Discounts

Since 1998 E-Rate has been ensuring that every school-aged child is getting the full benefit of having internet access inside of their schools.

What are E-Rate Discounts?

E-Rate was developed by the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, in 1997 as a way of providing internet access and other modern communication technology to libraries and schools across the nation. Each year $2.25 billion is spent to ensure that every American has the benefit of new information technology. 

The E-Rate is able to accomplish this by providing discounts of up to 90% on the tools needed to set up telecommunications and internet access inside schools and libraries.

Who is Eligible for E-Rate?

Any non-profit public or private school can receive that E-Rate discount as well as non-profit libraries. Priority is given to those schools that are severely behind in communication technologies.  In order to determine the amount of discount a school may receive officials will look at whether it is in an urban or rural area and the percentage of students who receive help from the National School Lunch Program. This guarantees that the neediest schools get the technological help they need first.

Services Eligible for the E-Rate Discount

There are a total of five funding categories that represent the communications services provided to schools and libraries that are available for the discount. They include:

  • Telecommunications Service: For a school or library to receive the discount for their telecommunications service, the company that is providing it must offer telecommunications service on a common carriage basis. This can include a company that is providing a variety of services as a package, including phone and internet.
  • Telecommunications: This allows for the school or library to purchase or lease the fiber optic cables necessary to provide internet access. Installation costs may also be discounted so long as it remains within the property line.
  • Internet Access: Discounts are applied to the basic conduit service that will provide the school or library with access to the world wide web, along with e-mail service. The platform the entity chooses for transmission is not limited and could be wired or a wireless service.
  • Internal Connections: The hardware required to connect the services to other rooms and classrooms in a school or publicly accessible rooms at a library is available with the appropriate discounted price. This would include items such as cabling and connectors, but it could also be applied to components such as routers that enhance the performance of the internet service. Basic computer equipment and software would also fall under this category.
  • Basic Maintenance: A technical support contract is allowed for the basic maintenance of all qualifying internal connections. The discount will only be eligible if it is presented as a maintenance agreement or as part of a contract.

These five categories are listed in the order of priority as set out by the FCC. Discounts will be allocated first to those schools and libraries that are lacking the basic telecommunication services needed to enhance the education of the student body.

Earlier in 2014, the FCC made an announcement that for the next two years it will infuse the E-Rate fund with an additional $2 billion to help get schools and libraries up to speed with wireless broadband internet access. In addition, the three top telecommunications providers in the nation are each offering an additional $100 million to the cause. The goal of the FCC is to ensure that within the next 5 years, 99% of all American students will be benefiting from access to high speed internet connections.

As the program moves forward into this next phase it is apparent that there is a strong commitment to keeping educators supplied with the most up to date technology as possible. Thanks to this funding program, schools can look forward to major updates in their telecommunication systems in the next couple of years.

Second Annual Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest Is Now Live!

Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest

We are pleased to announce that our second annual Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest is now live – college students will have a chance at winning one of four (4) $500 scholarships.

Last year when we decided to offer a college scholarship we had no idea that it would be as popular as it was. Over 11,000 students submitted an entry that explained, in 140 character or less, how advances in technology have helped improve the education system – four winners were picked and each received a $500 scholarship to put towards the 2013 Fall semester.

Our second annual Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest will keep the same Twitter-inspired 140 characters or less entry requirement. Students who are attending college during the upcoming 2014 Fall semester can enter to win one of the four (4) $500 scholarships. This year's contest topic is to, in 140 characters or less, explain the pros and cons of e-books versus traditional textbooks.

Students will have until September 18, 2014 to come up with a clever tweet that could possibly win them $500 to put towards their education. 

Visit the official Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest page to view the rules and make a submission to enter for a chance to win one of four (4) $500 scholarships. Follow @DialMyCalls on Twitter for daily updates regarding the scholarship contest.

To view all of the entries and vote on your favorite tweet, check out the scholarship voting page here.

*This scholarship contest is offered by DialMyCalls.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Twitter.

The Allure of SMS Text Messaging as an Appointment Reminder For Physicians

Text Message Appointment Reminders

Medical practices are now estimating that yearly, they are losing up to $150,000 due to patient no-shows. In multi-physician facilities and clinics the amount can easily surpass $1 million. As one clinic reports that they had 14,000 no-shows over the course of one year, a staggering number that could be reduced by automated SMS text messages.

Regardless of the size of the practice, profits are being lost due to the overwhelmingly amount of patients who cannot keep an appointment.

Why Use SMS Text

The act of notifying patients of an appointment is a time consuming task when taken on by a receptionist or secretary. That time could be spent doing other pressing office work if the physician utilizes SMS text messaging as a tool to remind patients of upcoming appointments.

In the past, physicians relied on sending postcards as an appointment reminder. Not only was this a time consuming task, it was not cost effective. Plus, many of those postcards would find their way to the trash bin before the intended recipient ever received it. Modern technology, particularly the now easy-to-use mass notification system, has made the postcard system obsolete.

The Numbers Don't Lie

A recent study by the Internet Journal of Healthcare Administration has conducted a study that shows that if a practice implements an SMS text message service to remind patients of appointments they should experience a decrease of up to 36% in patient no shows.

The SMS text messaging services offered by DialMyCalls is considerably more cost effective than utilizing a staff member whose resources could be better spent in other aspects of the medical office. The service can quickly pay for itself not only with the decrease in wasted labor costs, but with the decrease in missed appointments. There are some reports that are showing an increase of $50,000 annually in a single physician office that has implemented the SMS text message appointment reminder service.

How to Phrase Your Message

When choosing the appointment reminder message to text try to be as concise with the details as possible. The message should be set to be relayed 48 hours before the scheduled appointment. It should first stress the purpose of the appointment and how missing it will affect the patient's health. Next would be the date and time for when the appointment has been scheduled. Lastly should be a request. Here you should ask that the patient call within the next 24 hours if they are not going to make it.

Some practices have gone so far as to also mention that the patient will be charged if less than a 24 hour notice is given for a reschedule. Enacting this type of deterrent for missing appointments is entirely up to the doctor and his staff.

Once you implement the DialMyCalls appointment reminder service you will wonder how you ever survived without one. Not only will it increase your annual income, it will allow your staff to work in areas that are more important for patient care. Without having to deal with appointment reminding or with missed appointments, you and your staff will have more time to take care of your patients.

Rabbis Embrace Technology with Automated Synagogue Notifications

Automated Synagogue Notifications

Although Rabbi is the Hebrew word for teacher, his role is much more complex in the Jewish community. Besides leading Shabbat services and those on High Holy Day he is the officiator of major life events such as Bar and Bat Mizvahs, baby naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals. In addition to his role as the religious leader, he is also looked to as a community leader, and with that comes even more responsibility.

In order to be an effective leader, Rabbi’s have had to broaden their scope of abilities in order to meet the increasing demands of their roles. They have had to learn to speak publicly, read spread sheets, and organize fundraising campaigns all while keeping in touch with their congregation and running their synagogues day to day meetings and prayers.

Attempting to keep up with all of these additional duties can be difficult and time consuming, which is why many are turning to modern technology as a way to stay connected with their members and keep them updated on important synagogue events. You will find that many have turned to social media outlets to keep the community they are charged with abreast of current events. Broadcast messaging would help them even greater at staying in touch and keeping members up to date in a more personalized manner.

A mass notification service like DialMyCalls is easy for a Rabbi to incorporate into his busy life. All of his contacts are there, and can be organized into special groups. One list can be primarily his administrative staff, who can all be alerted at the same time if there is a sudden change in a meeting place or urgent help is needed with a member of the congregation. Synagogue members can also be included in the list of contacts. Fundraising information or other special events will be sent directly to their cell phones, which is where they are most easily reached.

With DialMyCalls, a Rabbi has three options for how his contacts receive his message. It can be sent via voice message, text message or email. With a voice message a Rabbi can record his own message to be sent or use the built-in text-to-speech tool on DialMyCalls which will convert typed text into a voice message. When sending out a phone call or text message, the option to send out those messages to the contacts email is also available. All of these methods are fast and convenient, helping to make the busy life of a modern Rabbi easier.

Besides events, automated synagogue notifications can be a way for a Rabbi to help spread good news throughout his congregation. He can inform members of a birth in the congregation or wedding and invite others to extend congratulations. This shows his synagogue that despite his busy schedule, their lives are still his primary concern.

Despite his growing list of responsibilities, a Rabbi’s main focus is always to service his community and provide for them whatever needs they may have. What better way to show this then by personalized messages that are sent straight to the congregation's phones.

Increase College Enrollment with Automated Back To School Messages

Automated Back To School Messages

Each summer, admissions offices in colleges and universities across the country grapple with the loss of admitted students who suddenly change their mind. This can be due to any number of factors. In the past, there was little contact between a college and its upcoming freshman class during the time period between acceptance and enrollment, a custom which is now showing to have a negative impact on new student enrollment in the Fall.

There are a number of factors that could change the mind of a teenager after he or she has committed to your school. You may not have been top choice, and now the top choice has admitted them off of the wait list. Another factor could be financial, as they start to take into account living away from home with little time to find and keep a job. In fact, studies show that potential college students coming from low income households will change their minds about enrolling almost 20% of the time.

Research has been conducted by Harvard University that proves that staying in contact with admitted students during that final summer can increase the chance of enrollment by over 7%.

Those few months in between graduation and enrollment are critical for a college or university that is concerned about the amount of students that will be entering the freshman year. The Harvard experiment implemented the use of text messages during this time period and found interesting results.

For any other higher education institution to receive the same positive results is easy, especially when they have an already established mass notification system. Using the mass text messaging/phone call services of a company like DialMyCalls, a university or college can stay in touch with its upcoming new class in a variety of ways:

  • Send bulletins about preparing for the move away from home. Mention specific items that they may forget in the excitement and also prohibited items that should not be packed.
  • Have guidance counselors send e-mail messages to the groups of students that will be assigned to them. The message should be a short welcome message and highlight how to get into contact with the counselor if the student ever feels overwhelmed or needs help.
  • Use the voice message service to start your peer mentor service before classes even begin. Put your incoming class in touch with the older students who will be helping them throughout the first few months of classes. Hearing an actual human voice will personalize the call for the recipient.
  • As enrollment day gets closer, send advice on choosing a class load and instructions on checking into the new dorm. By this time you should have boarding assignments set you can personalize the messages by groups and let each building know specific information about their new living quarters.

What a college or university gains by taking advantage of the results of the Harvard study is a increase in enrollment due to your continued interest in the student during the summer break. By engaging with them positively during this critical time, the interest in attending your school will not subside.

Hurricane Alerts and Notifications: Keep Employees, Customers and Residents Safe

Hurricane Alerts and Notifications

The 2014 hurricane season is upon us, and weather agencies are already predicting two land falls for the U.S. Prepare your business now by setting up automated notifications that will alert your employees, residents and customers of the potential dangers, how to prepare for them, and the extent of damage in the aftermath.

The strong winds and rains produced by a hurricane can cause irreparable damage to valuables left at storage yards and boat marinas. When news of an impending hurricane hits, owners of these businesses can immediately let every customer know that their possessions are at risk. Being prepared is key to surviving a hurricane and securing a boat and other valuables will help to prevent any damage or loss. With one quick message, your entire customer list will be forewarned.

Small coastal towns and municipalities can also use automated hurricane alerts to let their residents know where to find an emergency shelter and offer tips on how to stay safe during the storm. This can be done achieved via phone call, text message or email.

Do you have special concern for disabled or elderly residents? With our easy to read reports, you can quickly ascertain who has received the notification and who may not yet be aware of the impending storm.

After the storm you can send updates on emergency shelters, medical services and even places to go to get uncontaminated drinking water. There is no way to predict the extent of damage that a hurricane will leave in its path. Prepare now for the worst by incorporating your own emergency notification system.

Preparing for a hurricane is one thing, but it is the hours and even days following that can cause the real confusion. With power outages and blocked streets, information will be scarce. With the click of a button you can instantly let your employees know when it is safe to return to work. Marinas and storage facilities can avoid an endless stream of phone calls by alerting all their customers at once on the status of the facility and when it will be re-opening for business.

Home owners associations use DialMyCalls to keep residents up to date on the status of the local road ways and power restoration. Not only is everyone informed to batten down their homes, but in the aftermath one phone call or text message sent to the entire neighborhood will let everyone know that there is a downed tree blocking an exit or which local grocery stores have re-opened for business.

What makes DialMyCalls stand out in these situations is the ease of use. You are worried too and have a lot of your own preparations to make. With stored contact lists already in place it's easy to get the message out without losing valuable time. Use your phone to record a message or make it even simpler with the text-to-speech tool that converts your typed warnings into a voice message instantly.

Weather forecasters are not always right, and after this past winters slew of nationwide blizzards we should be preparing for the same with hurricane season. This time stay one step ahead of mother nature. Set up your DialMyCalls account now, import your contacts and be prepared to let your employees, customers and residents know when it is safe to emerge after the storm.

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