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Let the FY 2015 E-rate Procurement Begin

The direction of the E-rate program has shifted, with goals focused to help school districts and libraries have adequate bandwidth and necessary Wi-Fi for today’s 21st Century students and library patrons, instead of traditional, legacy, voice services. With these changes come new rules and regulations for stakeholders to grasp. The FCC has also released a draft version of the FY 2015 Eligible Services List that may be tweaked, but is not likely to be adjusted drastically, and the new FY 2015 Form 470 will hopefully be released soon as well. The SLD will soon reveal a new Form 471 tool for online submission, and the Item 21 Description of Service Attachments will be embedded within the Form 471 application itself.

From July 1, 2013 to the beginning of October 2013, nearly 1,900 Forms 470 had been posted to the SLD website, compared to only 211 Forms 470 during the same time frame this year. The impact of learning about and adjusting to the program changes can clearly be seen in the current pace of applicant procurement.

Understandably, many E-rate applicants may be tempted to wait until the FY 2015 Eligible Services List and new Form 470 are finalized and released by the FCC before starting their E-rate procurement process for the year. However, the SLD clarified at their applicant training session in Washington, DC that applicants can use the currently available December 2013 version of the Form 470 for contracted, month-to-month or tariff services. I encourage applicants to begin their competitive bidding process over the next few weeks, instead of waiting too long to start a process that may prove to be less familiar this year.

It would be a shame for applicants to delay their procurement waiting for the new Form 470 to be released, as the applicants will still need to wait 28 days, evaluate bids, negotiate contracts, and then possibly wait for school board approval. After all this, facing the difficulty of learning about and creating a new Form 471 at last minute would leave applicants open to mistakes, as they try to learn about another new form and navigate through an unfamiliar submission process.

Funds For Learning® continues to provide monthly webinars to help applicants understand the new rules and the next training session is October 9th, 3pm EDT training.

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