- What is E-rate?
The Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as E-rate, provides discounts to eligible schools and libraries in the United States on their telecommunications, Internet access, and related services. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under the program, discounts ranging from 20% to 90% on Telecommunications Services, Internet Access, and Internal Connections are provided to eligible schools and libraries, subject to a $2.25 billion annual cap, indexed to inflation each year.
In order to receive E-rate discounts, schools and libraries must competitively bid all eligible services on the SLD (program administrator) website and after a minimum of 28 days, select the most cost effective proposal. E-rate discounts are then requested by applying to the SLD and if discounts are approved, they are provided to schools and libraries via directly discounted bills, or a reimbursement process after services have been provided.
- How does E-Rate work?
Schools and libraries can apply each year for discounts on the cost of telecommunications and other services. If you are funded, you can either receive discounted bills from your service providers or pay for the services in full and request reimbursement. The program is capped at $3.9 billion per program year, indexed to inflation each year.
- What are the E-rate eligibility requirements for schools?
For purposes of universal service fund (USF) support, schools must meet the statutory definition of elementary and secondary schools found in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. § 7801(18) and (38)):
- An elementary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education, as determined under state law.
- A secondary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under state law, except that such term does not include any education beyond grade 12. Schools operating as for-profit businesses or that have endowments exceeding $50 million are not eligible.
- What are the E-rate eligibility requirements for libraries?
Libraries must meet the statutory definition of library or library consortium found in the 1996 Library Services and Technology Act (Pub. L. 104-208) (LSTA) and must be eligible for assistance from a state library administrative agency under that Act.A library includes:
- A public library
- A public elementary school or secondary school library
- An academic library
- A private library, but only if the state in which such private library is located determines that the library should be considered a library for purposes of this definition
- A research library, which for the purposes of this definition means a library that:
- makes publicly available library services and material suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available to the public; and
- is not an integral part of an institution of higher education
A library’s eligibility for support also depends on its funding as an independent entity. Only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools (including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities) shall be eligible to receive discounted services.
For example, an elementary school library is only eligible to receive discounted services if its budget is completely separate from the elementary school. If its budget is not completely separate from the elementary school, the elementary school library is not eligible for support independent from the school with which it is associated.
- What services are E-rate eligible?
The Eligible Services List (ESL) for each funding year provides guidance on the eligibility of products and services under the Schools and Libraries Program.
- E-Rate Timeline
Step 1: Competitive Bidding - A competitive bidding process is a formal process to identify and request the products and services you need so that potential service providers can review those requests and submit bids for them. To open the process, post an FCC Form 470 to the USAC website.
Step 2: Selecting Service Providers - After you close your competitive bidding process, you can evaluate the bids received and choose the bid that is the most cost-effective. You may consider as many factors in your evaluation as you want, but the price of the eligible products and services must be included as a factor and must be weighted more heavily than any other single factor. Remember, your FCC Form 470 and your Request for Proposal (RFP), if you issued one, must both have been publicly available for the same 28-day period before you can close your competitive bidding process. Constructing an Evaluation
Step 3: Applying for Discounts - To apply for Schools and Libraries Program discounts file an FCC Form 471 to provide USAC with information about the services you are requesting and the discount(s) for which you are eligible. USAC will review your request, may ask for additional information, and will then issue a funding decision.
Step 4: Application Review - After you file and certify an FCC Form 471 within the filing window, Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviewers at USAC check the information on your form for completeness and accuracy and may have additional questions for you to answer. PIA Review Process
Step 5: Starting Services - After you have received your Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) and the delivery of your services has started, you file an file an FCC Form 486 to inform USAC that services for which you have been approved for discounts have started and invoicing can begin.
Step 6: Invoicing - After USAC has processed your FCC Form 486, you or your service provider can begin the process of invoicing USAC for the discount share of the approved eligible services. There are two methods that can be used to invoice USAC.
Step 7: Before You’re Done - There are a number of actions that may be desired or required outside of the regular application process. This list provides information on these actions.