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Seven E-rate Tips for Surviving the Filing Window

The E-rate Form 471 application filing window for Funding Year 2010 is open for applicants across the country.  It extends from Dec. 3, 2009 to Feb. 11, 2010. Funds For Learning has put together a list of seven key tips to help applicants navigate the often turbulent waters of the E-rate funding application process.

1. Review all Forms 470 used on your application

Whether posting a new Form 470, or using a Form 470 which was filed in a previous year, it’s important to review each Form 470 to ensure it’s the one that you can (and want to) use for each funding request.  In particular, check that:

  • The services for which you are requesting discounts are covered under the Form 470.
  • The quantity or capacity of services requested are in line with those listed on the Form 470.
  • The Form 470 indicates that you are seeking a multi-year contract, or one that includes voluntary extensions, if referencing a long-term contract.

2. Sign contract AFTER the Form 470’s Allowable Contract Date and BEFORE submitting the Form 471

If you have posted a new Form 470, be sure that you select your service provider(s) only after the Allowable Contract Date.  The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company monitors this by checking the signature date on your contract(s), so it’s a good idea to double-check that date to ensure it’s later than the Allowable Contract Date.  In addition, the SLD requires that the contract be signed prior to the Form 471’s submission to the SLD.

3. Use lunch data on or after Oct. 1, 2009

As the basis for calculating your organization’s discount rate, you must use NSLP eligibility reports dated Oct. 1 (or later) when completing the Form 471 application.  The SLD will verify the information provided for discount rate calculation with a third party (such as a State Department of Education), so be sure that the information you provide on the Form 471 is accurate.

4. Post Form 471 early

While the Form 471 deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 11, 2010, don’t wait until the last minute to file it.  The Form 471 application is complex, it takes time to complete, and things don’t always go as planned.  A snowstorm, an illness in the family – such unforeseen events could derail your plans to complete the Form 471 by the due date.  Each year, many applicants request additional time to complete the form because of unexpected circumstances – most of these requests are denied.

Avoid the last-minute rush to give yourself time to…

5. Double check everything before submitting

A thorough review of your Form 471 is the critical final step before submitting the form.  Have a second person within your organization review the application.  Overlooked typographical or calculation errors could result in your funding being delayed or denied.  Even colleagues without much day-to-day E-rate experience can be helpful in catching these errors.  Many applicants assume the FCC’s Bishop Perry Order provides an open-ended second chance to fix any and all mistakes or omissions on their Form 471.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The Bishop Perry Order allows only certain errors to be corrected after the Form 471 is submitted.

6. Prepare your Item 21 Description of Services Attachments as you prepare the Form 471

Every E-rate application must be accompanied by the Item 21 Description of Service Attachments, the supporting documents that substantiate the amount of funding requested.   Since this set of documents is required, it’s a good idea to compile them as the application is prepared.  This will ensure that the information provided to the SLD – both on the Form 471 funding request and within the Item 21 Description of Services Attachments – is consistent and accurate.

7. Submit & certify before the close of the filing window

The submitting of Form 471 takes place when the form is completed and filed (either electronically or on paper) with the SLD.  The deadline for submitting the Form 471 for the upcoming E-rate year is 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 11, 2010.  Applications completed online must be submitted before this time.  Those submitted on paper (via mail or courier) must be ‘postmarked’ on or before Feb. 11, 2010.  Failure to submit the form in a timely manner jeopardizes your organization’s potential for receiving funding.  In addition to being submitted, the Form 471 must also be certified.  This step requires you to attest your compliance with established E-rate rules and regulations.  If you submit the Form 471 on paper, certification is entered on the final pages of the form.  If you submit the Form 471 online, certification is a separate step that follows the submission of the form.

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