E-Rate Process

Go With The Flow.

This flowchart provides Information Technology staff and others involved in the application process a brief overview of the E-Rate application process. Applicants must apply each year and must file more than one form.

E-Rate Application Flowchart

Detailed Process Descriptions

The descriptions listed below detail the process and steps involved with applying for Federal E-Rate funds.

1. Determine Eligibility

The Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC/SLD) has determined if a state includes Pre-K programs within its definition of elementary education, Pre-Kindergarten student populations and facilities are eligible to receive E-Rate discounts. USAC did not make the determination without first contacting appropriate state officials. Each state must also provide documentation to confirm eligibility. USAC reviews eligibility every two years. More information on eligibility is available on the USAC web site. To find out if your Head Start program is eligible for the E-Rate program, review the E-Rate eligibility table maintained by the Universal Service Administrative Company.

2. Locate or Obtain Entity Number and Request PIN

Entity numbers are required to complete E-Rate Forms and are obtained by contacting the Universal Services Administrative Company Schools and Libraries Division (USAC/SLD).

If your agency is eligible to participate in the E-rate program you should first check to make sure your agency does not already have an entity number. To do this via the internet use the Billed Entity Search Tool. Once you have determined your agency does not have an entity number you should request your entity numbers as soon as possible.

3. Develop a Technology Plan

A dated, written plan must be on file prior to completing Form 471. It can be a draft and doesn’t need to be approved, but must be dated and in writing. No plan is required if your are only requesting discounts on telephone services. More information on technology plans can be found at the USAC web site.

4. Review Phone Bills and Prepare RFPs

Review phone bills and prepare your request for services. Determine the services for which your agency is eligible by reviewing the Eligible Services List. Each year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues a list of products and services eligible for E-Rate discounts. More information on determining eligible services is available on the USAC web site.

5. Complete Form 470 (Description of Services Requested and Certification Form)

Applicants can complete paper forms or post requests for services to the Universal Service Administrative Company Schools and Libraries Program web site using Form 470. Posting Form 470 essentially opens a Competitive Bidding Process. More information on completing Form 470 is available on the USAC web site.

In addition to the required Form 470, grantees may issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) or other solicitation methods tailored to specific needs and circumstances. Do NOT ask service providers for assistance in developing an RFP or completing Form 470. Applicants must wait 28 days while service providers submit bids to applicants. Applicants may sign contracts on or after Allowable Contract Date (29th calendar day after 470 is posted).

6. Complete Form 471 (Services Ordered and Certification Form)

Each year a filing window for Form 471 generally begins mid November and continues through the first week in February prior to the start of a funding year. applicants may select a service provider no less than 28 days after filing Form 470. Applicants must follow local purchasing law, rules and procedures. After making their selection, applicants submit 471 to request E-Rate discounts. Applicants must complete Form 471 before the filing window closes. More information on completing Form 471 is available on the USAC web site.

7. Ongoing

USAC reviews all the Form 471 documents to verify the accuracy of discount percentages and ensure that support is committed only for eligible products and services.

  • Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL) – USAC sends the applicant a Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL) when the Form 471 has been successfully entered into their online system. Applicants should carefully review the RAL and must notify USAC of any data entry errors within three weeks of the postmark date of the RAL.
  • Undergo Application Review – Applicants can help speed up application reviews by:
    • Submitting a complete Form 471 including required certifications and Item 21 Attachments for each funding request Responding to requests for additional or clarifying information within 15 days;
    • Verifying that USAC has correct contact information. More information on undergoing an application review is available on the USAC web site.
  • Receive Funding Decision – USAC issues one or more Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) to both the applicant and the service provider(s). Program funding commitment decisions are issued in “waves,” or regular cycles. Generally, the funding year commitment waves will run on a regular bi-weekly schedule until such time that the only remaining applications are those held for heightened scrutiny.
    • Priority One – all eligible telecommunications and Internet access services are fully funded first
    • Priority Two – eligible requests for internal connections and basic maintenance of internal connections from applicants with highest discount levels receive next priority

More information on receiving funding decisions is available on the USAC web site.

8. Receive Approval of Technology Plan

Each plan must be approved by a USAC Certified Tech Plan approver prior to filing Form 486 or before services are received. OHS is working to develop examples and templates of technology plans for Head Start. Also, a process for obtaining approval of technology plans for Head Start grantees is being developed.

9. Complete Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation Form)

To help USAC ensure that Universal Service Fund support is paid only for services that have actually been delivered, applicants must verify the start date of services and submit Form 486. With Form 486 applicants confirm the following:

  • the start date of services,
  • approval of the technology plan, and
  • compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Form 486 must be postmarked no later than:
    • 120 days after the Service Start Date featured on the Form 486, or
    • Commitment Decision Letter, whichever is later.

More information on Form 486 is available on the USAC web site.

9a. Submit Form 500

Applicants submit Form 500 to release any unused funds. The Form 500 must be filed to accomplish the following:

  • to adjust the Funding Year Service Start Date reported on a previously filed Form 486 for this Funding Year
  • to adjust the Contract Expiration Date listed on your Form 471 application for this Funding Year
  • to cancel irrevocably and totally a Funding Request Number (FRN)
  • to reduce irrevocably the amount of a Funding Request Number (FRN)

10. Invoice USAC

After eligible services have been delivered, service providers and applicants may submit invoices for Universal Service Fund (USF) support. Two invoice methods and program forms exist:

  • Form 474 (Service Provider Invoice (SPI) ) The Service Provider files this form if the applicant chooses to receive discounted bills from the provider.
  • Form 472 (Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Form) The applicant files this form if they will pay for services in full and request reimbursement directly from USAC/SLD.

Form 472 or 474 must be received at USAC/SLD or postmarked no later than 120 days after the date of the Form 486. Payment will be denied if an invoice is postmarked after the deadlines listed above.

11. Receive Reimbursement

To be eligible for support, services must be received during a specific period of time related to the particular funding year for which discounts are requested. Recurring services must be delivered during the relevant funding year (July 1 through June 30). In general, non-recurring services must be delivered and installed between July 1 of the relevant funding year and September 30, following the June 30 close of that funding year (i.e., 15 months after the beginning of the funding year).

12. Self Assessment & Review

Implementing technology goals is a dynamic process. Organizations often must adapt to changing circumstances. Effective, ongoing evaluation will force planners to rethink and adapt objectives, priorities, and strategies as implementation proceeds. Continuous evaluation also facilitates making changes if aspects of the plan are not working. Evaluation techniques such as meetings with all stakeholders, interviews, and surveys will help organizations monitor progress toward the goals stated in the technology plan.