The E-rate process can be outlined into the following steps:

1. Develop a Technology Plan (For Funding Year 2014 and previous years only)

When applying for E-rate discounts on any Category 1 services, a technology plan is not required. However, if an applicant is applying for E-rate discounts for services/products under the Internal Connections and/or Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections (Category 2 services) categories, a technology plan is required. The technology plan must be drafted before any application paperwork is submitted, but it does not need to be officially approved until services start the following year. The SLD has outlined four criteria that must be on a technology plan. The approved technology plan must state goals and objectives, detail a professional development plan, and contain a needs assessment and evaluation process. During the creation of the technology plan service providers can give only "technically neutral advice". The technology plan must be approved by a USAC-certified technology plan approver. The applicant must also be able to demonstrate to the SLD it will be able to pay the non-discounted portion of the total price, and that it has this money available.

2. Procure Services

Applicant files the FCC Form 470 to announce that they are seeking E-rate support to purchase eligible goods and services. The applicant will also need to comply with all local and state procurement rules and regulations. The E-rate requirements do not trump local procurement rules, but add a layer of requirements onto the rules already in place.

When the Form 470 is posted to the SLD's website, a 28-day period begins in which interested service providers may submit proposals and bids to provide service to the applicant.

After the 28 day posting period, the applicant reviews the bids and proposals, selects a service provider, and signs a contract or service agreement.

3. Apply For Funding

Then the applicant submits the FCC Form 471 which tells the SLD which service provider was selected, the goods and services for which the applicant will be requesting E-rate support, and the costs of those goods and services.

4. Application Review

The SLD will review the application to substantiate that the requests are for eligible services that will be delivered to eligible locations and students/patrons. Once the application has been approved, the SLD will issue a Funding Commitment Decision Letter, or a FCDL.

5. Receive Services

Applicants receive services during the "Funding Year" (July 1 - June 30). They submit the Form 486 to the SLD to signify that the approved services are being delivered, and that the applicant is complying with the Children's Internet Protection Act.

6. Realizing Discounts

Finally, the applicant has two means of realizing the benefit of the E-rate program. The first, is to receive discounted billing from the approved service provider, the service provider then bills the SLD for the committed portion of the delivered services. The second is to pay the service provider in full and then apply for reimbursement directly to the SLD.