The E-Rate program, also known as the Schools and Libraries Program, is a long-term commitment. Dedicating yourself to the application process offers several benefits, including the opportunity to receive a 20 to 90% discount on your new phone and Internet service. To capitalize on those benefits, follow our seven helpful tips for the E-Rate application process, below.
- Commit to the E-Rate Application Process
Joining the E-Rate application process requires your commitment 365 days a year. Throughout the year, you’ll have to complete follow-up steps, from submitting forms to filing your invoice with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which oversees the E-Rate program.
Many of these forms come with deadlines, ranging from 15 to 120 days after a set period. If you miss a deadline, your application is void, leaving you and your school or library without those much-needed funds to serve your students and staff.
- Maintain Up-To-Date Records
As E-Rate applications are a year-round commitment, it’s essential to keep your records up to date. Login credentials for your E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) account, which is your control center for information about your application and submissions, should be noted for ongoing reference.
Later in the application process, you’ll receive a PIN for USAC’s invoicing system. You’ll want to note this number too as it’s critical for accessing the system, which is an essential component for issuing your E-Rate funds to your designated bank account.
- Review Your Submission Deadlines
Deadlines are a defining feature of the E-Rate program, which is why it’s essential you review them beforehand. The most critical deadlines include:
- FCC Form 470
- FCC Form 471
- FCC Form 472
- FCC Form 486
While many deadlines allow filing within 120 days, others have much tighter submission dates, like responses to application inquiries, which you mmust submit within 15 days. To keep track of the various deadlines, create a chart, markup your calendar or set up reminders on your computer or smartphone.
- Track Changes to the E-Rate Program
Changes are another signature feature of the E-Rate program. It’s always undergoing renovations to its rules, systems and procedures, and failing to comply with the latest standards can lead to a rejected or underfunded application — that’s why it’s a frequent tip for the E-Rate application process.
Make sure you’re up-to-date on the E-Rate program’s requirements by attending any USAC-hosted training sessions and subscribing to USAC’s news brief, which is issued each week. The training sessions are an excellent opportunity to not only learn about the existing program but to also ask specific questions.
- Follow the Requirements for Competitive Bidding
Processes for bidding and selecting service providers are often why the E-Rate program undergoes frequent changes. In the past, these steps have been characterized as being wasteful and fraudulent, which is why USAC has now set specific standards for them.
Two of the most important standards are ensuring your competitive bidding is fair and open and demonstrating in your Bid Evaluation Matrix that cost was the driving factor in your decision to choose one service provider over another. While implied, the provider you select must also be cost-effective.
- Ensure You Reply to Application Inquiries
It’s critical to respond to any application inquiries from Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) team. As mentioned earlier, your responses need to be written and submitted within 15 days to keep your application moving forward.
If you need additional time to respond, many PIAs can grant extensions. They’re also knowledgeable about these applications, so if you’re unsure about what they’re asking or how to answer, let them know — they’ll be more than happy to go over it with you.
- Keep and Update Your Service Records
One of the most underrated tips for using the E-Rate program is to keep your records from the entire application process. USAC requires you to store these documents for at least 10 years, though we recommend holding onto them forever. If your records are all digital, back them up to multiple locations for safekeeping.
Ready to begin your school or library’s application? With these go-to tips for the E-Rate application process, you and your team should have a competitive advantage as you file your submission, compare bidders, select a service provider and more.
UniVoIP is a leading Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) provider with extensive experience serving schools and libraries through the E-Rate program. Our phone services not only qualify for Priority One funding but also deliver exceptional uptime while boosting performance and productivity. Learn more about our services by contacting us today.