The E-Rate Process: An Overview

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 into five easy-to-understand segments.

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.


After preliminary research, it’s time to file two separate forms with USAC.

The first, Form 470, is the application form that formally kicks off 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 FY24 has yet to be announced, but will be posted on the USAC E-Rate Productivity Center when available. 

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.

USAC E-RATE Productivity Center (EPC) STEP TWO

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.

USAC Application Review Process STEP THREE

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.


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.

USAC Invoicing Step Five: Invoicing and Follow Up

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.

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