Oct 27 2017

3 Tips for Starting Your E-Rate Application Process Off Right

The time to plan for 2018 funding is now. Here’s how you can get started.

E-rate, the Universal Service Fund’s Schools and Libraries Program, provides U.S. schools and libraries discounts toward obtaining Internet and telecommunications access.

According to the Education Department, the program provides discounts as large as 90 percent, which can be critical in low-income and rural areas, in particular.

Applying for E-rate funding, however, can be a confusing process for school officials. Our guides and tips can be quite useful, but sometimes it’s best to consult an expert.

That’s where Amy Passow, CDW•G business development manager, comes in. EdTech sat down with the E-rate expert to discuss the steps your school can take to better its odds of receiving 2018 funding.

1. Develop a Plan for Your Network’s Future

Planning, while daunting, is a basic first step for implementing any new technology. Passow suggests that school officials outline a plan for their networking needs over the next few years and decide when to apply for each component.

“Right now, we’re in the application cycle for E-rate. You can be filing your Form 470s, which is what starts the bidding process,” says Passow. “The Form 470 needs to list everything you want to receive pricing for, so you need to have that figured out before you file [it].”

While the 2018 deadlines won’t be released until January, Passow indicates that the deadline for the Form 470 could be as early as the end of February.

2. Involve a Variety of Stakeholders in the Application Process

While each school has its own leadership organization, administrators and the IT department must be involved in preparing an E-rate application plan. IT can decide what equipment is needed, but often a principal or superintendent needs to be involved for final approval, says Passow.

“It’s always good to have a few people who at least know what’s going on in case someone is out and you get questions from bidders or from [the Universal Service Administrative Company],” she says.

3. Follow the Rules of the Bidding Process

Once a plan has been established and Form 470 has been filed, the bidding process for E-rate work lasts 28 days. Passow says that for schools to receive funding, it is integral that they adhere to the guidelines.

For example, any information given to a vendor must be shared with all service providers bidding on the school’s work. Passow suggests communicating with vendors via email and then posting that email as an addendum to the Form 470.

“The more information you can provide on Form 470, the better responses you’ll get from service providers,” says Passow.

Also, Passow indicates that schools shouldn’t request specific brands of networking equipment without saying “or equivalent” because USAC wants to make sure schools are entertaining all bids.

For more on E-rate, check out our content hub!

Not sure what tech you'll need to meet your educational goals? Be sure to check out CDW•G's ​resources on E-rate.

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