Q:   What is the E-rate Program?
A:   The National Education Rate Program (“E-rate Program”) is part of the Universal Service Fund, as established by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  It provides discounts on telecommunications, Internet access, internal connections, and basic maintenance of internal connections to eligible entities that complete an annual application process.
Q:   Who is responsible for the E-rate program?
A:   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has regulatory authority over the program under the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  The FCC has appointed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to administer the program.  Within USAC, the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) manages the day-to-day operations of the program.
Q:   How much money is available in the E-rate program?
A:   $2.25 billion is available annually to eligible applicants (adjusted for inflation since 2010).
Q:   Who is eligible to apply for E-rate?
A:   Public and most private non-profit k-12 schools, as well as all public and most private libraries are eligible for E-rate.  For specific eligibility requirements, see http://www.usac.org/sl/applicants/beforeyoubegin/definitions.aspx.
Q:   What is the application process?
A:   E-rate has an annual application process.   In short, the E-rate year runs from July 1 – June 30.  Each fall, applicants post a Form 470, followed by a 28-day competitive bidding period, then followed by a submission of Form 471 during the winter E-rate filing window, and a Form 486 after receiving a Funding Commitment Decision Letter. 
Q:   What sorts of services are eligible for E-rate discounts?

Funding is requested under four categories of service:  Telecommunications, Internet Access, Internal Connections, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections.
Applicants must provide additional resources including end-user equipment (e.g., computers, telephones, etc.), software, professional development, and the other elements that are necessary to utilize the connectivity funded by E-rate.  These resources and end-user equipment needs are not covered by E-rate.

An Eligible Services List showing eligibility by service and/or product is released annually by the FCC.  For the latest Eligible Services List, visit:  http://www.usac.org/sl/applicants/beforeyoubegin/eligible-services-list.aspx.

Q:   How do I determine my discount level?
A:   Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served and range from 20% to 90% of the costs of eligible services.   Raw data reflecting the school’s population participating in the National School Lunch Program is placed within the E-rate matrix to calculate the E-rate discount.  To determine your Urban/Rural classification, please look to the latest guidance issued by USAC, found at:  http://www.usac.org/sl/applicants/step04/urban-rural.aspx.

Q:   Is E-rate a grant program? Are there yearly reporting requirements?
A:   E-rate is not a grant.  It is an annual application process for disbursement through the Universal Service Fund.  There are no yearly reporting requirements.  However, all services and equipment requested under the E-rate program must be utilized by the applicant to meet program requirements.  All E-rate documentation must be kept for five years from the last date of service.