After months of anticipation and one month after the official start date of the new
After months of anticipation and one month after the official start date of the new E-rate program, the Schools and Libraries Corporation opened its World Wide Web site for business on Jan. 30, kicking off the formal application period and starting the clock ticking on the first 75-day filing window.
Under the Federal Communications Commission's regulations, schools and libraries that file both their Form 470 and Form 471 applications during that window period will be given equal priority. After the filing window expires on April 14, 1998, funding for the program will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Because Form 470 applications for new services must be posted on the SLC Web site for 28 days, and the SLC will hang onto applications for support for existing contracts for a similar amount of time, schools and libraries must, in effect, file their Forms 470 by at least March 17, to allow enough time for that 28-day period. For paper-based applications, additional time may need to be built in to guarantee that they can be processed before the window period ends.
The SLC Web site includes three areas: one where schools and libraries can submit their applications, one where service providers can review them, and a reference area with background information on the program. The reference area includes a feature that will tally how much E-rate funding the SLC has already committed. Once the first 75-day filing window is over and the SLC begins committing funds, this feature will enable schools and libraries to monitor how much of the $2.25 billion E-rate funding pool remains to be distributed.
Schools and libraries will be able to create and submit applications, complete an application that was previously saved and search applications posted by others. Service providers will have a separate area in which they can search through applications to determine which jobs they want to pursue.
The application forms include prompts and filters to help ensure that applicants supply the correct information. The site can accommodate up to 1,000 simultaneous users, and will be available around the clock, except for scheduled daily maintenance between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. E.S.T. The SLC said it anticipates receiving as many as 50,000 sets of applications during the initial filing period.