The E-rate funding year begins on July 1 each year and ends on June 30 of the following year. This means that you will apply for discounts several months before the funding year begins, and will begin receiving discounts for equipment and services received during the funding year. Typically, schools and libraries begin the application process as early as October and complete it by the Form 471 filing deadline, which varies from year to year but is usually in early to mid-March.
When you apply for E-rate you are asking USAC to approve discounts for eligible purchases that you are planning to make. To do this you file two forms: the Form 470 and the Form 471. Form 470 is a public request for bids that are posted on the USAC site. Form 471 is a request for funding for specific equipment and services at a specific price, based on the outcome of the Form 470 bid process. Greatly simplified, Form 470 tells the world “here is what we want -- give us a quotation.” Form 471 tells USAC, “here is what we plan to buy and how much it will cost, based on the best quotes we received.”
After you file your Form 471, you wait for USAC to respond. In the simplest case, they simply say “yes” by sending you a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL). However, before USAC sends your FCDL, it is very common for them to ask you questions about your application in the form of a “PIA (Program Integrity Assurance) review.” Usually, these reviews are requests for clarification or additional information, and in most cases, once you have answered their questions you will be funded. In some cases, however, your funding request will be denied. In the 2016 funding year, 88% of all applications were funded, and 12% were denied.
- If your request is denied, you have the option of filing an appeal within 60 days of receiving your FCDL. If you plan to appeal a decision, we recommend that you contact DPI for guidance before you begin.
- If your request is funded, there are two ways that you can collect your discount. You can file for direct reimbursement from USAC, or your vendor can send you a discounted bill, and then receive reimbursement from USAC.
Before you are even halfway through the funding year, you will begin the process of applying for discounts during the following year.
More detailed information on the history of E-rate, along with many helpful links, are on our “E-rate 101” page.