7 Upcoming E-Rate Dates Worth Remembering

At this point in the 2022-2023 year, school leaders are focusing on E-Rate dates that are related to tasks for Funding Year 2021 and Funding Year 2023 tasks.

School leaders often find themselves spending the fall months of the school year thinking about E-Rate dates and deadlines. This is on top of their already packed fall calendars that include a focus on teaching and learning, staff and student culture, school safety, and a myriad of activities like back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, interim assessments, basketball games, and dances.

This busy time in the life of a school can also be a particularly tricky time period when it comes to E-Rate because schools are often finishing up their invoicing for the previous funding year and preparing for the application window for the next funding year while operating in the current funding year. There are multiple overlapping deadlines and windows of real significance coming up in the next few months that school leaders will want to pay attention to.

E-Rate dates related to wrapping up actions from Funding Year 2021:

The covered dates of service for Category One and Category Two expenses for Funding Year 2021 were from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. Category One covers services that are needed to support broadband connectivity to schools, including data links that connect multiple points and services to provide basic conduit access to the internet. Category Two covers the internal connection services that enable broadband internal connections and enable high-speed broadband connectivity. These can include coverage of the equipment that forms the backbone of a school’s IT infrastructure — like installing, activating, and configuring LAN/WLAN connections and also maintaining and upgrading existing equipment and networks. Category Two funds also cover maintenance, repair, and upkeep of certain internal connections.

Schools and districts have two options for how they actually receive these E-Rate funds. Option #1 is through a Service Provider Invoice (SPI). Through this option, the IT company providing schools with Category One or Category Two services bills schools only for the portion of the payment that they are responsible for.  On the back end, the service provider submits an SPI directly to the Univeral Service Administrative Company (USAC), the independent non-profit designated by the FCC to administer the E-Rate program. The invoice that the service provider sends to the USAC is to obtain the portion of the payment that schools are not responsible for.

Option #2 is through a Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR). For the BEAR process, schools must file Form 472 to request reimbursement after paying the full cost of the services upfront. In order to receive reimbursement, the service must be approved, the school needs to have already received the service, and the school needs to have paid for the service in full.  Schools can decide how often they would like to submit a BEAR form. Some opt for monthly or bi-monthly, quarterly, or even just once a year.

The BEAR deadline for reimbursement of recurring services, for most schools, is October 28, 2022. It’s a rolling deadline that is either 120 days after the last day to receive services which is June 30th or 120 days after the FCC Form 486 Notification letter date, whichever is the latest. Schools have until January 28, 2023, to submit a request for reimbursement for non-recurring services and one-time purchases. Service providers have the same deadlines to submit the SPI. Applicants and service providers are allowed to submit a one-time deadline extension request if they need additional time to submit their invoices or reimbursement requests. Schools and service providers that submit extension requests by October 28, 2022, will automatically receive an additional 120 days to submit their materials.

E-rate dates related to preparing for the Funding Year 2023 application:

The E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) is the portal that E-Rate applicants use for application and account management. It’s the main space to manage processes related to the program, be in contact with customer service, and receive updates and notifications. Once a year, there is an EPC Administrative Window. During this window, schools are able to make updates to their EPC profile as they prepare for the next funding year’s application. This window is critical because it is the only time that a school is able to make changes to its profile; once this window closes, the profile is locked.

The changes that can be made during the EPC Administrative Window include updates to student count, National School Lunch Program (NSLP) numbers, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) numbers, and names of associated individuals and entities, including consulting firms. An accurate student count matters because that number is used to calculate the discount rate that schools and districts receive. Student count is also used to calculate Category Two budgets. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Nutrition Service – the entity that administers the NSLP program, instituted nationwide waivers and flexibilities, that may have impacted a school’s NSLP numbers. Many of those waivers and flexibilities have since expired so schools will want to be sure that their NSLP numbers are current. This is also a good time for schools to review the contact information and address in the portal to ensure accuracy.

The EPC Administrative Window opened on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, and will remain open until January 7, 2023. This January date is right before the FY2023 application filing window opens on January 10, 2023. This window, to submit Form 471, remains open until March 20, 2023. Once an application is approved, the next funding year will begin on July 1, 2023. After this deadline, the cycle of E-Rate dates begins again as schools close out from this current funding year and prepare to apply for funding for the subsequent one.

At CTS, we help clients keep up with important E-Rate deadlines and make the most of their E-rate funds. 

We’ve worked with more than 60 schools across the United States to make the most of their E-rate funds. With discounted rates on telecommunications tools and services from 20% to 90%, the E-Rate program is of tremendous value to schools. However, the process is complicated. With multiple deadlines, many of which overlap, that sometimes are related to three funding years at once,  E-Rate management can take up a lot of cognitive space for school leaders.

Our goal at CTS is to be more than just a technology company; we’re also an education partner.  We have a deep knowledge of IT and we also have an understanding of education makes us a unicorn partner who translates mission into practical solutions. We can support school leaders with E-Rate management so that they can focus on more pressing matters related to their students and staff.

School leaders can put their trust in CTS because we have a track record of success. Yes, we are a registered E-Rate vendor and we’re E-Rate experts. To date, schools we’ve partnered with have been awarded $10 million in funding. We offer the standard Category One and Category Two services such as internet access, basic maintenance of internal connections (BMIC), and managed internal broadband services (MIBS). Beyond that,  our services have included strategic consulting to prepare schools as they submit their 470 forms and CTS directly obtains reimbursement for funded requests so that schools don’t have to.

Our bids do more than meet the technology needs of our partners: they generate long-term relationships that help school leaders make the most of their unique technology services visions. Contact us today to learn more about our E-rate provider services and how we can best support your school. 

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