Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's Not Too Late To E-rate!

Upcoming presentation:
Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) logo
USAC administers the E-rate program
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is offering an E-rate information session on Preparing the Form 471, Category 2 budgets, and free and reduced counts (NSLP data). This session will be on February 4 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Follow the E-rate Google Community or watch the DPI E-rate webpage for updates on the E-rate program.
Background:
Libraries that are planning to apply for E-rate should do so soon. E-rate is the schools and libraries program that provides discounts for eligible products and services. The E-rate Modernization Order increased the available funds for schools and libraries. With the 2016 E-rate fund over $5 billion, we anticipate that most, if not all, eligible applications to be funded. Now is the time for public libraries to apply for E-rate for Category 1 services (data transmission services, internet access, and voice services) and especially for Category 2 services (internal connections, managed internal broadband services, and basic maintenance of internal connections).

But it's not too late for libraries to apply. At the very least, libraries should evaluate their needs, ask questions about the E-rate process, and plan to apply next year.

What to do:
Applicants need to file a Form 470 in the E-rate Productivity Portal (EPC) to begin the competitive bidding process for the services requested. The Form 470 is the description of services requested and certification, and the applicant should be prepared to evaluate bids and negotiate providers. One of the goals of the E-rate Modernization Order in 2014 was to improve the open and fair bidding process. This Applicants must wait 28 days after filing their Form 470 before closing the competitive bidding process and filing the Form 471.

After evaluating the bids the applicant will choose the most cost efficient option. To help with this process we suggest creating a bid evaluation matrix. Once this is done and the applicant can file a Form 471 when the filing window opens on February 3. Steps on filing a Form 471 can be found on USAC's website

Note: we encourage applicants to wait 14 days after the Form 471 filing window is open. This year's version of the Form 471 is new, and we anticipate some applicants might experience technical difficulties with the EPC portal, which is used in the filing, due to heavy demand. 

Resources:


DPI E-rate Google Community


Written by:
Ryan Claringbole, Public Library Development Team