The GadellNet Top 10: E-Rate Program Explained

April 29, 2016

The benefits of enrolling your school in an e-rate program are immense. Your students and faculty will have the bandwidth and connectivity they need to teach and learn in a modern classroom. The modernized e-rate program seeks to provide digital learning through affordable access to high-speed broadband to schools.

Here are a few of the most common questions answered.

1.How can it help me?

Providing your students access to digital learning allows them to grow and learn in today’s tech-reliant world. Tech helps students stay engaged in learning. Taking advantage of the latest teaching techniques and tools will be a great advantage for your staff. Enrolling in an e-rate program to have access to great tech will also help attract the best teachers. With great teachers, engaged students, and amazing digital resources, your school will be able to meet learning goals like never before.

2. Who provides funding?

The Universal Service Administration Company or USAC. Your services will be provided through individual service providers.

3. What kinds of tech does it encompass?

E-rate programs started to allow schools and libraries access to computers and internet. Today, e-rate programs support connectivity. The two categories for e-rate are telecommunications services and the internet.

4. Does this include Mobile Devices?

No. E-Rate programs do not include mobile devices or other end user equipment like computers and telephones. However, for a limited time, e-rate includes rebates for cell phones.

5. What are my first steps?

Before filling out the necessary forms, you should do a thorough review of all of your options and how they meet the unique needs of your school. Seeking out an e-rate consultant can help you through this step and all of the forms that follow. They are usually well worth their commission.

6. Ok, I know what my first steps are, now what? 

Next, you move onto the bidding process where you file your FCC Form 470. In recent years, this process has been shortened. Less waiting before filing your Form 471 (to seek funding for eligible services) means getting to the Funding Commitment Decision Letter sooner. Once you receive this letter, your funds will be approved and you will be eligible for services.

7. What are the different forms for?

The FCC Form 470 starts the competitive bidding process. You express what services you would like and service providers are then notified. They are then able to bid in the job.

The FCC Form 471 is used to calculate the discount percentage to which you are entitled.

The FCC Form 486 is filled out when you receive your services from the service provider. This form makes sure the service provider receives their payment.

The FCC form 472 or 474 is filled out to ensure you are reimbursed the discount you are entitled to.

8. What are the deadlines?

These forms are filled out in succession. For the most part, their due dates depend on the previous step of the process.

FCC 470 28 days before the FCC 471. December – February is the most common time.

FCC 471 window between January and March and at least 28 days after the FCC 470 is filed.

FCC 486 No later than 120 days after the date you receive the Funding Commitment Decision Letter

FCC 472/474 No later than 120 days after FCC 486 Notification Letter or 120 days after the Service Start Date.

9. How do I check my status?

You receive letters to notify you about the decision that has been made at each step of the process.

10. What if I have questions as I move through the process?

There are many online resources that can help you navigate this process. USAC’s website is a great place to start. For more specific information on everything from logging in to Fiber and Special Construction, you can check online video tutorials.