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E-rate Funding for Libraries: Applying

Federal funding for telephone and internet access

Is It Worth the Work?

Only you can make that decision for your library.

Discounts range from 20% to 90%. To learn the discount for your library, either log in to EPC, or contact Maria Bernier and ask her to look it up for you.

Discounts for voice services are being phased out by 20 percentage points per year starting with FY2015. For example, a library system that was eligible for an 80% discount for Category One services will be eligible for a 60% discount on voice services for FY2015, a 40% discount on voice services for FY2016, and a 20% discount on voice services for FY2017.

Terms

Here are a few terms and acronyms to start with. Be sure to check USAC's extensive Glossary online too.

  • Billed entity number (BEN): A unique identifying number assigned by USAC to each school or library.
  • EPC: The online application portal for E-rate. Sometimes pronounced "epic."
  • FCC: Federal Communications Commission
  • FY: Funding Year (not fiscal year). FY2016 runs from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. FY2017 runs from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.
  • USAC: Universal Service Administrative Company; the organization which administers the E-rate program.

Applying for E-rate

The list of things E-rate will pay for, known as the list of Eligible Services, changes each year. See the current and past lists at www.usac.org/sl/applicants/beforeyoubegin/eligible-services-list.aspx.

Products and services should fall under one of these categories:

  • Category One: provide connectivity to the building
    • Data Transmission Services and Internet Access, such as broadband over power lines, cable modems, DSL, T-1 or T-3 lines, ethernet, fiber optic lines, and satellite service
    • Voice Services, including many kinds of telephone service options
  • Category Two: provide connectivity within the building
    • Internal Connections, such as wireless access points, routers, internal cabling, switches, Uninterruptible Power Supply/battery backup packs, and wireless controller systems
    • Managed Internal Broadband Services, such as hiring a company to install, monitor, and fix the broadband network or Wi-Fi
    • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections, including repair and upkeep, maintenance of cable and fiber, configuration changes, tech support, and software upgrades.

1. Access your account in EPC.

Most forms and communications must be transmitted through EPC, so your account access is crucial. Read through the user guides and tutorials on the EPC (E-rate Productivity Center) information page, then try logging in to EPC. If you have difficulty getting access, contact the USAC Client Services Bureau at (888) 203-8100 on weekdays between 8 AM and 8 PM.

2. Read through the steps listed by USAC in the Applicant Process.

Read everything first to make sure you understand the language and have the necessary documents.

3. View the videos and recorded webinars in the Online Learning Library.

You can start the application process by filling out Form 470 any time between July 1 and January/February. When you're ready to apply, go to USAC's Getting Started page and follow through each of the steps. All of your forms and documentation will be submitted through the new EPC portal. Keep your EPC login information handy, and download copies of any forms you submit.

The E-rate program has its own jargon that can be confusing, so bookmark USAC's Glossary too.

Once you have filled out and posted your Form 470 to request bids for services, you must wait at least 28 days for bidders to send you their questions and bids. After at least 28 days, evaluate the bids based on the price and other factors that are most important to you, using a bid evaluation matrix. Then choose your service provider(s), and sign a contract with them for services. Then submit a Form 471 to notify USAC that you have selected a service provider and to calculate the amount of funding support you'll receive.

USAC will review your Form 471 for eligibility, completeness, and accuracy in what they call "PIA review" (Program Integrity Assurance). After the review is completed, USAC will send you a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) to notify you whether the funding request has been approved.

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