On the heels of the most significant regulatory changes to the E-Rate program since its inception, schools and libraries have one of the greatest opportunities in history to leverage E-Rate funds to implement high-speed broadband and data networks.
Download our E-Rate guide with information you need to successfully apply for and obtain E-Rate funding your infrastructure, or continue scrolling to get more information about the E-Rate process.
While the E-Rate process can vary from year to year (and can seem especially daunting to first-time applicants unfamiliar with the system), the entire process can be broken down simply in to five easy-to-understand segments.
STEP ONE: MAKE A PLAN, RETRIEVE DATA, AND PREPARE YOUR RFP
There are several things to do before you begin the filing process for E-rate.
The first step is to find your District or School’s student enrollment. With that information in hand, you’ll need to understand your school’s urban/rural classification in order to calculate your National Students Lunch Program Percentage; you can then map that percentage to calculate your E-Rate discount percentage.
Once you’ve established your school’s urban/rural classification, you can easily ascertain your E-Rate discount percentage, based on the table below:
STEP TWO: FILING FORMS 470 & 471
After preliminary research, it’s time to file two separate forms with USAC.
The first, Form 470, is the application form that formally kicks o the E-Rate process. This form lets interested vendors and service providers know that you are applying for E-Rate funding. The “Filing Window” for FY21 has yet to be announced, but will be posted the USAC E-Rate Productivity Center when available. Typically, this process concludes around [DATE] of each year, however.
The EPC is also the portal by which you can submit both Forms 470 and 471.
The second, Form 471, is a formal request for discounts on eligible services and equipment for the upcoming E-Rate season.
Please note that Form 471 cannot be submitted until at least 28 days AFTER the certification of Form 470; this allows vendors time to bid on your E-Rate-related projects. Form 471 will announce your chosen bidder, and associated requested costs.
If you do not have an EPC account, you may also contact the USAC Client Service Bureau (CSB) directly at (888) 203-8100.
STEP THREE: COMPLIANCE CHECK – PROGRAM INTEGRITY ASSURANCE (PIA)
During the Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) process, your E-rate application forms & processes are reviewed for compliance. During this process, you are likely going to be issued a series of questions that you must respond to promptly. At the end of the PIA process, a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) is sent to all parties detailing the funding status & amount.
Please note that you will have 15 days to respond to any questions posed to you during the PIA process; this deadline is not flexible, so keep this in mind during filing and certification of Form 471, and keep a look out for PIA communications.
STEP FOUR: FILE FORM 486
Once the Program Integrity Assurance compliance check has been completed and certified, you will file Form 486: this is the formal kickoff of projects approved and certified — in short, you’re “turning on the funding pipeline”.
After receipt, a notification letter is sent to all parties. You may then start the project or service.
STEP FIVE: INVOICING AND FOLLOW UP
There are two separate ways to invoice for projects and services rendered through the E-Rate Program; these methods require different forms in order to wrap up payment for projects:
Method One: Use Form 472 (BEAR – Billed Entity Application Reimbursement) in order to pay the vendor in full, and request reimbursement directly from USAC.
Method Two: Use Form 474 (SPI - Service Provider Invoice) in order to have the vendor invoice the school and USAC directly for their designated portions of projects and services rendered.
That’s all there is to it! Five simple steps, and an upgraded infrastructure for your institution and your classrooms.
Of course, we’re always here to help — please feel free to reach out to our State and Local Education teams if you have any further questions; we’d be happy to answer any additional questions you may have.