The moment you’ve been waiting for all summer has arrived: You’ve finally got your funding commitment letter. After a quick celebration (or a prolonged tantrum), here’s what you should do next:

1. Check to make sure there are no errors.

Hopefully, you should have corrected any mistakes that occurred during the SLD’s data entry process when you got your Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL). Even so, you should check to make sure that everything in your funding commitment letter is listed as it should be:

  • Funding Request Number: This is a unique identifier assigned by the SLD to each requested line item on your Form 471. It should be 10 digits long. If the FRN in your letter contains fewer than 10 digits, you should add zeros to its front in all future correspondence with the SLD.

  • Funding Status: If this doesn’t say “Funded,” you should know why. For internal connections, it may say “Unfunded” because you have a low discount rate and there isn’t enough eRate funding to meet your request. The SLD’s decision should include a brief explanation to this effect. If you have a question about, or want to appeal, your funding decision, you must do it in writing (see below for procedure).

  • SPIN (Service Provider Identification Number): It’s crucial for this to be listed correctly for each request that is funded, because you’ll be getting your discount from this vendor. You might already have caught a mistake in your RAL, but check again to make sure it was corrected.

  • Services Ordered: These should be categorized correctly as telecommunications, internet access, or internal connections. The category is particularly important with regard to your funding priority.

  • Effective Date of Discount: This should be 7/1/99 or the original start date of your contract, whichever is later.

  • Estimated Total Annual Pre-discount Cost: This should reflect what you initially listed on your Form 471 unless it was changed by the SLD during the Problem Resolution or Program Integrity Assurance phases of the review process (and hopefully discussed with you beforehand).

  • Discount Percentage Approved by the SLD: This should be the aggregate rate for all shared services, and the individual rate for all site-specific services.

  • Funding Commitment Decision: This amount should equal the pre-discounted cost multiplied by your discount percentage. It is the maximum discount you can expect to receive for a particular service via reimbursement and/or discounts to your monthly bills.

If there are any mistakes, you’ll have to notify the SLD of changes in writing. The procedure is listed on the SLD’s web site at http://www.sl.universalservice.org/SLC/Reference/questions.asp.

2. File a Form 486 for services you’ve begun to receive.

Form 486, the “Receipt of Service Confirmation Form,” must be filed before any eRate payments can be made to your service providers–and, therefore, before any discounts or reimbursements can be made to you.

Though the instructions say you must file the form within five (5) days of getting your funding commitment letter, this is only an objective and, aside from delaying your discount (and possibly annoying your service provider), you won’t be penalized for filing it after the five days have gone by.

Last year’s version of Form 486 has been revised slightly. It includes newly-added language in Item 8 that requires you to certify that you have signed, written contracts in place for all services except tariffed telecommunications services.

Important: You must file this new Form 486 for any Year Two services; filing last year’s version of the form will elicit a rejection, along with an invitation to resubmit the form using the new version.

Applicants who received funding commitment letters in the first two waves of Year Two did not get a Form 486 along with their letter. The new form will be mailed to them separately and will be included in all future waves of decision letters.

If you disagree with the amount of funding you received for a specific line item, you should go ahead and file a Form 486 for that item while you’re appealing or questioning the SLD’s decision. If you’re appealing the denial of funds for a line item, though, you shouldn’t file a Form 486.

Before you file a Form 486, check out the SLD’s “Tips for Completing Your Form 486,” available on its web site: http://www.sl.universalservice.org/SLC/Reference/486ag/486tips.asp

3. Appeal any decisions you don’t agree with.

If you’re not happy with a decision by the SLD, you have every right to appeal, and it doesn’t hurt to do so. Make sure you include any documentation that might help your case, however.

For example, if your application was rejected because it wasn’t submitted within the window, can you produce any evidence of extenuating circumstances, such as a Federal Express receipt that proves you dropped the application off in time to get it to the SLD?

This year’s appeals process is the same as last year’s, though the SLD has promised that appeals will be handled more quickly this time around. You have the option of appealing either to the SLD or directly to the FCC, but it’s recommended that you start with the SLD.

If the SLD turns down your appeal, you can still take your appeal to the FCC. You should know, however, that in general, the FCC takes a stricter view of the program’s rules. Appealing to the FCC also is a more formal and complicated process.

Important: Make sure you file your appeal within 30 days of the postmark date of your funding commitment letter. Per order of the FCC, both agencies will be upholding this requirement without exception in order to expedite the appeals process. So don’t delay in filing your appeal.

For detailed instructions on how to file an appeal, see the SLD’s web site:

http://www.sl.universalservice.org/SLC/Reference/appeals.asp