Tackling the post-commitment phase of the program

Funding commitment letters are due to be sent out soon. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for all summer, and one you probably thought would never arrive. Now that it’s finally here, here’s a primer explaining the process in more detail—including the steps you’ll need to take before you can receive your discount.

The FCC’s decision to change the priority of funding means that the SLC will be sending out funding commitment letters to applicants in waves instead of all at once. If you requested discounts on telecommunications services or internet access only, or if you qualify for a high discount level (80 or 90 percent), you’ll get your funding commitment letter first. If you requested discounts on internal connections and you don’t qualify for at least an 80 percent discount, you’ll get your funding commitment in the second wave of letters, after the SLC has determined whether there’s enough money to fund your request.

The SLC has assigned a “Funding Request Number” (FRN) to each individual line from your Form 471, Item 15 or 16. Next to each FRN in your funding commitment letter will appear a funding status for that particular line: “Funded” at the level you requested, unless adjusted by the SLC; “Partially Funded” or “Unfunded,” if the total amount of money in the Universal Service Fund is not enough to cover your request; or “Denied,” if the service was found to be ineligible.

A detailed explanation will accompany requests that are partially funded or denied, according to the SLC. The first thing you should do when you get your funding commitment letter is make sure the information contained in the letter is correct. If you have questions or need to make corrections, you should contact the SLC as specified in the letter.

If you’ve already begun to receive services that will be discounted, your next step will be to complete and file a Form 486, the “Receipt of Service Confirmation Form.” You’ll need to do this right away, since you only have five (5) business days to submit this form from the time you receive your commitment letter.

Form 486

Form 486 verifies that you are receiving the services you’ve requested discounts for. It also verifies that you have a technology plan approved by an SLC-authorized agency.

The form is short and, by SLC standards, fairly simple to fill out. A draft copy submitted for the FCC’s approval was only three pages.

There are five cases in which you’ll need to fill out and submit a Form 486:

• receipt of a funding commitment letter for existing services;

• start or receipt of approved new services;

• early termination of services;

• extension of contract expiration date; and

• decision to cancel a Funding Request Number for services.

You must file a Form 486 within five business days of receiving your commitment letter for existing services, and within five business days of the start date for new services.

You also have to file a Form 486 immediately if the delivery of a service is terminated before the contract expiration date indicated on your Form 471 (Items 15 or 16, Column 5), or if the expiration date is extended within the current program year.

The person who completed Form 471 (often referred to as the “Billed Entity” by the SLC) should also file the Form 486. You can choose to file one Form 486 for all your FRNs or submit separate forms for each FRN.

The form will ask you to certify that you have an approved technology plan and to name the agency that approved the plan. If your technology plan hasn’t been approved by your state education agency or another SLC-certified institution, you should get it approved now.

A copy of Form 486 will be mailed to you along with your funding commitment letter. The form also will be available on the SLC’s web site, but it cannot be filed electronically. Form 486 should be returned to: SLC Form 486, P.O. Box 7026, Lawrence, KS 66044-7026, or for express delivery, to: SLC Form 486, c/o Ms. Smith, 3833 Greenway Drive, Lawrence, KS 66046.

Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Form

If you’ve already paid for a service in full and you’re approved for a discount on that service, you’ll have to submit a special Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Form to the SLC before you can be reimbursed.

You should complete this form in consultation with your service provider, because your service provider will have to sign the form agreeing to issue a reimbursement to you via check or credit as soon as possible once the SLC approves it.

Like the Form 486, the Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Form will be sent to you along with your funding commitment letter. You can include more than one FRN on each form, but there should be only one Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) per form.

When you’ve completed the form, you should make a copy for your service provider. Mail the form to: SLC BEAR Form, P.O. Box 7026, Lawrence, KS 66044-7026, or via express delivery to: SLC BEAR Form, c/o Ms. Smith, 2822 Greenway Drive, Lawrence, KS 66046.

The SLC’s goal is to review and approve all Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Forms within 20 days. Once your form is approved, your service provider will be notified to begin the reimbursement process. The Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) will then cut a check to the service provider covering the discounted portion of the service. Service provider responsibilities

The SLC will send a copy of your funding commitment letter, the Form 486, and the Billed Entity Reimbursement Form to your service providers so they can consult with you about their billing process. Once you’ve filed your Form 486, your service providers can start invoicing the SLC for your discounts. Service providers may submit their invoices on paper or electronically. The Service Provider Invoice Form will be available on the SLC’s web site soon.

How quickly you’ll begin to see discounts depends on the service provider. For some vendors, adjusting their billing systems to incorporate the eRate discount will be easy. For others, the task is much more complicated.

Some applicants may not see discounts until 1999, the SLC warns. During the transition period, you may be required to pay service providers’ bills in full and seek reimbursement using the Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Form.

Some service providers also may create new procedures to handle eRate business. It’s imperative that you consult with your service providers throughout the billing and invoicing phase to make sure you understand their procedures.

The SLC will be conducting a workshop titled “From Funding Commitments Through Discounts, Step by Step” with applicants across the country. You’ll find a list of these workshops on the SLC web site. You can also call the SLC Client Service Bureau hotline with any questions you might have at (888) 203-8100.

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