Thirteen Things to Avoid During the Filing Window
In honor of Friday the 13th, we have put together a list of 13 things you want to avoid during the E-rate filing window.
- Procrastination – Funds For Learning analysis has shown that there is a strong correlation between the time the applicant files, and the date of the Funding Commitment Decision Letter. Putting off E-rate may be fun, but delaying funding certainly isn’t.
- Missing Deadlines - The deadlines associated with the filing window are hard deadlines. If you miss one your application could be toast. The last day to post a Form 470 is February 21. The last day to certify your Form 471 is 11:59pm Eastern on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
- Leaving Off a Desired Service - If the service is not on the Form 470 (or a previous Form 470 in the case of multi-year contracts), it cannot be included on the Form 471. If you want (or think you may want) to request reimbursements on an eligible good or service, put it on the 470.
- Involving Service Providers in Form 470 Preparation - You should not involve service providers in the preparation or posting of the Form 470, or allow them to act on your behalf on any matters related to the competitive bidding process.
- Vendor Specific Items on the Form 470 - You should be specific when describing the products and services you wish to purchase on your Form 470 and/or RFP, but not too specific. If you list specific brand names, manufacturers, or parts, you must also specify “or equivalent” to ensure that competitive bidding rules are not violated.
- Looking Solely at “E-rate Approved Vendors” - In short, there is no such thing as an “E-rate approved vendor”. If you receive solicitations that make too-good-to-be-true claims of product and service eligibility from an "E-rate Approved Vendor," remember to fall back on the official E-rate eligibility rules and regulations before you proceed.
- Vendor Gifts - Equo ne credite, Applicanti! Applicants and/or other school personnel are prohibited from soliciting and/or receiving gifts or anything of value from a service provider who is participating in or seeking to participate in the E-rate program. Additionally, service providers may not offer or provide gifts to any personnel involved in the E-rate process. An exception to this rule is that gifts and/or meals are permissible if the total value of that gift and/or meal is less than $20.00 and does not exceed a $50.00 total value per funding year, per employee.
- Waiting Less Than 28 Days – After you post the Form 470, you must wait 28 days before entering into a contract or agreement with a service provider. Failure to wait will result in denial of the requests.
- Forgetting to Certify – Know the difference in the form statuses on the USAC website. Just because a form is posted or says “complete” does not mean that it is certified. Be certain that your forms are certified within the window.
- Tossing E-rate Documents in the Trash – Applicants must retain E-rate documentation (letters, bids, quotes, contracts, etc.) for at least five years. Safe rule: If it involves E-rate, save it.
- Ignoring the Discount Matrix – A service provider cannot tell you what discount level your school is at. Gather your NSLP data and use the Discount Matrix to determine your schools discount level.
- Forgetting the Item 21 – New as of last year, the Items 21 must be submitted before the close of the window. Don’t overlook this important item when filing your application.
- Errors - This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is easier said than done. Before submitting or certifying any forms, check, re-check and have someone else come check your work.