Many public K–12 schools and districts rely on E-Rate to ensure that students have appropriate Wi-Fi and broadband access. To help schools gain access to funding, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which manages the E-Rate program, has streamlined the application and review process.
For example, the new online application features drop-down menus, which reduce errors, prepopulate applicant information where possible and provide embedded tips as users go through the application, says Mel Blackwell, vice president of USAC’s Schools and Libraries Division.
USAC is also reviewing applications and making commitment decisions faster than ever. Last year, USAC completed the funding process by Oct. 1. The goal for 2015 funding is to complete the funding process by Sept. 1.
Changes to E-Rate that will speed and simplify the application process further include:
Streamlined applications for multiyear contracts: Applicants entering new multiyear contracts can use a streamlined application process in subsequent funding years if they submit a complete Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 471 the first year.
Eliminating the technology-plan requirement: Historically, E-Rate has required applicants to develop a tech plan that is approved by a state education agency or other USAC-certified body. The FCC eliminated the tech-plan requirement for Category One services in 2010 and now has eliminated the requirement for Category Two services.
Eliminating paper applications: Applicants and service providers must file all documents electronically to USAC.
Adopting districtwide discount rates: To simplify the application process, each district is now required to calculate and use a single districtwide discount rate instead of calculating and using building-by-building discount rates.
Milestone Dates for E-Rate 2015–2016
The next funding year: The next eligible funding opportunity runs from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016.
FCC Form 470 and competitive bids: Schools must solicit bids for services and technology by filing FCC Form 470. After filing the form, schools must wait 28 days before reviewing bids from service providers and vendors. The last day to post this form for funding year 2015 was Feb. 26, 2015.
FCC Form 471 filing window: The filing window for FCC Form 471 for the 2015 funding year closed on March 26, 2015. Schools must submit Form 471 after they have selected their service providers and vendors.
Document retention period: The document retention period has been extended from five years to 10 years.
For more on E-Rate's modernization and how it will affect your school, read CDW’s white paper Get Ready for E-Rate 2.0.