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This is the first blog in a three-part series about the E-Rate Program, a US Federal initiative administered by the USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company) for the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), that provides schools and libraries across the United States with affordable access to broadband and telecommunication services and solutions via approved, E-Rate funding mechanisms.
Not only does the E-Rate program help to make technology and internet access more affordable, it also is helping bridge the digital divide in primary education by providing discounted services that allow schools and libraries to invest in technology. For the fiscal year 2022, the USAC committed $2.84 billion toward the E-Rate program.
We’re discussing what we view as the commonly seen top mistakes made during the E-Rate process and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not knowing SKU eligibility for E-Rate.
A common mistake made during the application process while filing a Form 470 is listing SKUs that are not E-Rate eligible. Based on whether a SKU is Category 1 or 2, they can either be 100% or partially eligible. If an ineligible item is listed, it can be held up in the program integrity assurance review process and potentially jeopardize funding for the entire request. On average, about 5% of applications are delayed or rejected due to an ineligible SKU being listed. Because of this, it is critical to ensure that all SKUs listed are E-Rate eligible. To make sure the SKU you are listing is eligible, one of the best practices is to use our E-Rate Eligibility Product Search. Simply search the product or SKU to find the E-Rate eligibility percentage. It really is that easy!
Mistake #2: Not knowing your budget.
E-Rate budgets reset after five years, and the amount awarded is based on student count or library square footage. If you choose to spend your budget slowly over the five years, it can become difficult to keep track of the E-Rate dollars your school has left. Knowing how much is left in your E-Rate budget is important to make sure you are maximizing the services that are available to your school. If you don’t know how much remains in your budget, you can use this Category 2 Budget Tool. After inserting your Billed Entity Number (BEN) and hitting calculate, you will see information about your total Category 2 budget, how much you have used each year, and how much you have remaining during this cycle.
Mistake #3: Simple filing mistakes.
We know that if you are filing your Form 470 or 471 without the help of a consultant, who are used by more than 60% of schools, you have to go through a lot to get it done. Far too often we see simple filing mistakes such as listing an inaccurate SKU or choosing the wrong service provider or manufacturer. Taking your time and proofreading all forms is key, for a simple mistake could hinder both the bidding process and funding audit process. About 5% of applications get denied funding each year due to filing errors. To ensure you don’t submit the wrong information take your time filling out the forms, double-check everything, and get a second pair of eyes to look over the forms if you don’t have a consultant.
The E-Rate Program is a great resource for schools to support their network infrastructure needs. However, mistakes when filing can end up costing you time and possible funding. When filing, consider the tips above for a smooth process while maximizing your E-Rate budget.
How can RUCKUS help you avoid top E-Rate mistakes?
The E-Rate process can be a daunting one, but RUCKUS Networks is here to help. Below are additional resources to help you during your E-Rate filing. If you have any questions, you can reach out to our E-Rate helpdesk.