This is the 18th E-rate filing window. Over the years I have come to appreciate the fact that each window has its own look and feel. Its own personality, if you will. If I had a name for this filing window it would be Endurance because it seems to be going on-and-on, mile-after-mile, like a marathon.
Although each window has its own unique characteristics, there are some aspects that remain consistent from year-to-year. For example, consider the fact that most of the fund requests come in at the very end of the filing window. As of today, we estimate that only 62% of applicants have submitted their applications. Another way to say that: almost 4-out-of-10 applicants will be attempting to submit their applications sometime in the next 6 days. If you are part of this group, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone; however, time is not on your side and I encourage you to move swiftly.
Here are a few practical tips and suggestions to help you along the way:
1) Don’t wait for tomorrow. If there is any way that it can be done today, do it. If you need a copy of an invoice or a contract, track it down. If you need to speak with someone, call them at home, or go find them at their favorite restaurant. Social etiquette is wonderful. But getting your students or library patrons connected trumps niceties. It’s time to get it done.
2) Avoid peak times. The USAC web site often gets sluggish during “rush hour”. If you use the USAC web site to prepare your application, then you may want to avoid their site during those times. If you are online and the site is moving slowly, rather than waiting and getting frustrated, do yourself and everyone else online a favor and step away from the computer. Take a walk. Or go home and have dinner with your family. Or tend to other important job responsibilities. If you come back a few hours later, chances are the USAC web site will be moving faster. CAUTION: this advice does not apply on the last day of the filing window.
3) Divide and conquer. It is perfectly acceptable to prepare multiple Form 471 applications. If you are waiting for a contract to be signed for one of your services, there is no need to hold up your other funding requests. Split them on to multiple applications and go ahead and submit the funding requests that are ready to go. This keeps you from putting all of your eggs in one basket. If something happens and you are not able to submit your last application on April 16, at least most of your funding requests will have already been submitted and certified “in-window”.
The E-rate filing window represents a great opportunity for schools and libraries to receive much-needed funding support for Internet connectivity. Good luck to all of you this E-rate filing season – especially the 4-out-of-10 of you who are getting ready to submit!