The federal eRate program helps schools and libraries obtain discounted telecommunications services and internet access.
Schools and libraries can begin requesting their share of $2.3 billion in telecommunications discounts through the federal eRate program on Dec. 12, and they’ll have until March 14 to apply for 2013 funding.
The Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC), the agency that administers the eRate, has announced the dates of the filing window for the 2013 program year.
The filing window for FCC Form 471 will open at noon EST on Dec. 12, 2012, and close at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 14, 2013. The window will be open for 93 days.
The eRate gives out $2.3 billion in telecommunications discounts each year to eligible schools and libraries. All nonprofit schools, including private schools, are eligible as long as their endowment doesn’t exceed $50 million. The funding year runs from July 1 to June 30 of every fiscal year.
eRate applicants are eligible for discounts ranging from 20 to 90 percent of the cost of their telecommunications services and internet access. How much of a discount you get depends on the percentage of your students who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program and whether your school is considered urban or rural according to federal Metropolitan Statistical Information data—and there’s a matrix on USAC’s website to help you calculate your discount based on this information.
There are two types of services that are eligible for eRate discounts. Priority One services include telecommunications services and monthly internet access charges, and Priority Two services include what USAC calls “internal connections,” which are the wiring, routers, switches, file servers, and other equipment needed to bring internet access into classrooms—and also the cost of basic maintenance on these internal connections. Funds are committed for all approved Priority One requests first, and then whatever money is left over goes toward Priority Two requests, starting with requests from applicants who qualify for 90-percent discounts and working down the discount scale until all the money has been committed.
For more eRate advice, see Strategies for eRate Success.
The first step in applying is to file a Form 470 for all services that aren’t already under contract for the 2013 program year. This tells service providers which technologies you plan to purchase, so they can submit bids. Even monthly services like telephone and internet access require a new Form 470, unless you’ve signed a multiyear contract for these services.
Your Form 470 must be posted to USAC’s website for at least 28 days before you can sign new contracts and then apply for eRate discounts. This gives service providers a chance to review requests and submit bids, and it gives schools a chance to evaluate bids and choose a provider. Feb. 14, 2013, is the last day applicants can file a Form 470 on USAC’s website, meet this 28-day posting requirement, and submit a Form 471 application before the filing window closes.
Those just beginning the eRate application process should click here to learn more about the various forms.
USAC encourages applicants to file early, because that lets applicants: