December 22, 2022

E-Rate Funding 2023: Get Ready to Make the Most of It!

As technology continues to rapidly evolve, it’s more important than ever that schools stay up-to-date with the latest tools and resources. The government’s E-Rate funding program has been a vital source of support for schools in order to help them meet these ever-changing needs. It’s important to ensure you’re getting maximum return on your investments! Let’s explore what effective strategies can help bring you closer to achieving this goal.

*Develop a strategic plan and guide. In most schools or districts, one person oversees the E-Rate process, such as an IT administrator or even the superintendent. That E-Rate coordinator should create a strategic plan and guide that lists each E-Rate deadline on a calendar.

*Planning Ahead Is Key

The key to making the most of your E-Rate funds lies in your preparation.

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of your school’s needs and objectives. This means conducting an audit of all current systems and devices, identifying weak spots or areas where improvement is needed, and figuring out how much high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi access they need over the next years. E-Rate services under Category Two (C2) – have budget constrains: each school receiving C2 funding has a five-year, pre-discount budget for those products and services based on the number of students ($167.00 per student). There is no budget for Category One (C1) services.

In addition, we urge schools to file their Description of Services Requested and Certification Form (Form 470) as early as possible. If you wait till the last days of filing, you won’t have the time to adjust the form to attract more bids and not enough time to make changes to the Form 470 if technology requirements change. After you file and certify Form 470, you must wait 28 days to file Form 471, which states all the services or equipment a school is requesting funding for. Funding Year (FY) 2023 FCC Form 471 application filing window will open on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, at 12:00 noon ET and will close on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. If you miss the E-Rate deadlines – you must wait a whole to place the next funding request!

*Make sure your contact information with USAC is up to date. USAC communicates through the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) and email. Make sure new E-Rate coordinators have usernames and passwords for the portal and that they update the contact information to the most current and accurate.

*Update your EPC profile during the Administrative Window to ensure a smoother filing process and more timely review of your applications. You will not be able to make changes to your school’s E-Rate profile after that window closes. The Administrative Window for FY 2003 will close January 16, 2023.

*Stay Compliant with FCC Guidelines

Ensure compliance with Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines and make sure to read their “Daily Releases” updates. These guidelines are designed to provide clarity and transparency around how E-Rate funds are used.

*Read the Eligible Services List (ESL) published each funding year, which states all the services and products funded by the program and the conditions for eligibility. Only eligible products or services that will be used for educational purposes can be funded. 2023 Eligible Services List

* Take Advantage of Free Resources

The Schools & Libraries Division (SLD) provides free resources to help applicants make informed decisions about their E-Rate requests. SLD offers free webinars and other training opportunities throughout the year so applicants can stay up to date on best practices when using E-Rate Funds. State coordinators offer no-cost onsite and online training. Applicants can also contact USAC’s call center for any question they might have.

* Follow the competitive bidding process rules closely. Most E-Rate funding denials occur because of mistakes during the competitive bidding process, such as not waiting 28 days before selecting and signing a contract with a provider or choosing a service provider without reviewing the bid to allow service providers to get the same information and opportunity for a fair and open competitive process.

With E-Rate funding being such an integral part of ensuring schools have access to the latest technologies, it’s important that those funds are utilized wisely and effectively. By following these strategies and understanding all the rules and regulations of the program, school leaders and IT directors can provide their students with technology they wouldn’t otherwise have – making sure that valuable funds aren’t wasted.



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