School districts must have a solid telecommunications network in place in order to protect, inform and enable communication across district campuses.

While many educators want to offer their students the best in technology, they must first lay the foundation for an effective digital teaching environment, and that starts with a reliable telecommunications or telco solution. However, the path to a good telco solution isn’t always exceedingly clear.

This article will outline how a Telco Audit can identify the funding and the fit for the right telecommunications network for school districts.

What Does a Telecommunications Network Include?

TechTarget  writes that a telecommunications (telco) network “…includes a wide range of information transmitting technologies such as telephones (wired and wireless), microwave communications, fiber optics, satellites … the internet.”

A strategic telco network on academic campuses can work for a myriad of reasons: to protect the high volume of data on a school district network; keep pace with BYOD (bring your own device) as more students and faculty use their own devices for work and study; and have telephony systems in place such as VoIP (voice-over-internet-protocol) to inform and communicate on a daily basis as well as in times of emergencies.

According to EdTech: Focus on K-12, updating broadband and digital communications for schools became easier in 2014 when  the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) made some significant changes to its E-Rate program – boosting its budget and helping many school districts around the country to revamp outdated telecommunications systems.

E-Rate Application Process:

While E-Rate has been a windfall for schools around the nation, the upshot is this: schools must still be approved in order to be funded by E-Rate and there is a lengthy, complicated application process that administrators must undergo before funds are granted. In addition, E-Rate funding may not cover all services and products such as mobile devices, professional services, applications, digital content, or overarching network maintenance, according to EdTech.

Understanding Telco Needs:

Before the process of updating, adding, or refurbishing a district telecommunications infrastructure, academic administrators and IT personnel must understand what is truly needed for your district in the application for E-Rate funding.  This is not an easy process and as a result, EdTech writes that “…many K–12 schools have not applied for E-Rate funds …with an estimated 10 percent drop in participation in fiscal year 2016.”

A Telco Audit Can Pull It All Together:

A telco audit is a strategic first step for school districts looking to update and revamp their telco networks.

A telco audit can identify where upgrades make sense, where services are under-utilized or no longer used, and what overall telco solution makes the most sense for your specific needs.

Additionally, a telco audit can help districts reduce their current telco spending and, in some cases, receive credits for prior months. This can result in valuable opportunities to save money and reallocate funds to use towards other technology products and services.

Before embarking on a telco audit, the district should identify solutions providers that have both experience and understanding of the telco needs of today’s schools.  In addition, the solutions provider must have a working knowledge of how to navigate the E-Rate process to help identify for schools which services and upgrades are covered.

Telco Audit Process:

Phase 1: Assessment and Feasibility

In order to gain an overview of the school district’s needs, an audit begins with a preliminary analysis which includes interviews with key personnel to identify potential telecommunications expenditures. Using this information, the audit process can determine future savings and areas needed for upgrades.

Phase 2: Design and Implementation

Once the telco needs of the school district are identified, a comprehensive work plan and strategy is implemented. A full analysis of technical issues, detailed eligible expenditures, documentation and quantification of potential savings and credits are then completed.

Phase 3: Reporting

The final telco study and its quantitative and qualitative components are delivered to the district in the form of a digital strategy with detailed next steps.

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DiamondIT has telecommunications experts with a proven track record with schools who can conduct a telco audit and recommend specific upgrades and solutions tailored to your school district.