$2.25 billion in telecommunications discounts

Nonprofit schools and libraries in the United States have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to apply for Universal Service discounts on their eligible telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connections–the wiring, routers, switches, file servers, and other equipment necessary to bring internet access into classrooms–for Funding Year 2005 of the eRate, which runs from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. Applicants qualify for discounts of 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of eligible services, depending on the number of students they serve who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and whether they are considered urban or rural. To apply, schools must follow a three-step process: (1) Submit a Form 470 application listing all eligible services not currently under contract for which they will be requesting discounts; (2) wait at least 28 days before signing contracts or choosing service providers, during which time vendors may contact applicants and submit bids for their services; and (3) submit a Form 471 application after contracts are signed, requesting eRate discounts on all eligible services. Because a Form 470 application must be posted to the SLD web site for 28 days before a contract can be signed and a Form 471 submitted, applicants must file all Forms 470 no later than Thursday, January 20 to be eligible for Program Year 2005 discounts.

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