The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate, announced Nov. 2 that the application window for Year 4 of the eRate would open Nov. 6 and close Jan. 18. During this time, applicants can file their FCC Form 471 with the agency and ensure they have applied on time to receive universal service funds.

The eRate provides discounts to schools and libraries on the cost of their telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connections (the wiring, routers, switches, and other equipment necessary to deliver internet access to classrooms). Year 4 of the program pertains to services to be rendered July 1, 2001, through June 30, 2002.

The program has an annual cap of up to $2.25 billion. Discounts for schools and libraries are available first for telecommunications services and internet access, then for internal connections, based on the availability of leftover funds. Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and an applicant’s rural or urban status.

This year, for the first time, applications may be postmarked as late as Jan. 18, the last day of the filing window. But, the quicker you submit your completed application to the SLD, the sooner you are likely to get a decision on your funding request, according to the agency.

Unlike Year 3, all materials associated with the Form 471 have a Jan. 18 deadline:

• The 471 Form itself ( whether electronic or paper);

• The Block 6 certification for the Form 471 with an original signature by the authorized person;

• All attachments for Item 21; and

• The Block 6 certification of Form 470 filed for Year 4 (and which is cited in a Year 4 Form 471) with an original signature by the authorized person.

The Year 4 Form 471 is dated October 2000, and this version must be used for Year 4 requests. Old Forms 471 will be returned to applicants, putting at risk your ability to file on time.

Last year, the SLD received more than 36,000 funding requests. As of Nov. 1, the agency had provided more than $2.06 billion in discounts for eligible schools and libraries in Year Three of the program.

For more information on applying for Year 4 eRate discounts, go to the SLD web site at http://www.sl.universalservice.org or call the program’s toll-free hotline at (888) 203-8100.