eRate process begins for 2014

The filing window for getting 2014 eRate discounts on telecommunications services and internet access is now open, and schools and libraries have until Wednesday, March 26, to apply.

While the FCC considers major changes, it’s business as usual for eRate applicants this year.

The application process for filing an FCC Form 471 for Funding Year 2014 officially opened at noon ET on Jan. 9 and will close 77 days later, at 11:59 pm ET on March 26.

However, schools must file a Form 470 to start the competitive-bidding process on all services not currently under contract by Feb. 26, in order to satisfy the required 28-day bidding period before they sign a contract and file a Form 471.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission initiated a new rulemaking process that likely will introduce the most sweeping changes to the eRate since the program’s inception in 1997. The agency asked eRate stakeholders for their opinions on a variety of proposals designed to update the program and meet schools’ broadband needs.

But while the FCC considers those changes, it appears to be business as usual for eRate applicants this year.

“While there has been important discussion about sorely needed eRate reform, the application process remains unchanged for 2014,” said Cathy Cruzan, president of Funds For Learning, an eRate consulting firm.

Currently, the eRate provides $2.3 billion per year in discounts on telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connections—the wiring, routers, switches, and file servers needed to bring internet access into classrooms, also known as Priority Two services.

Few applicants receive discounts on these Priority Two services, however, because demand for the program outpaces the availability of funding. That’s one thing the FCC hopes to fix as it mulls future changes.

With support from Mitel, we’ve assembled a collection of stories and resources—including tips and strategies from leading experts—to help eRate applicants take full advantage of the program. You can access this resource center here.

For more details about the eRate and to apply, visit the Universal Service Administrative Company website here.

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