Avoid the Pitfalls of E-rate Funding Requests and Form 471 Filings
After all the hard work and hours it took you to complete the various forms and applications to file for E-rate discounts, it’s still not a guarantee that your funding requests will be accepted.
Your request might be denied based on a seemingly insignificant mistake, but like most bureaucracies, there are a number of arbitrary rules that, if broken, will sink your chances. Before you complete and submit your filings, review the tips below to make sure you don’t fall victim to some of the most common mistakes applicants make on their Form 471 funding requests.
1.) Don’t confuse your service provider’s name for their SPIN.
It’s a very easy and very common mistake. Oftentimes, your service provider’s SPIN is different from their legal name, and if you confuse the two on your form, your acceptance chances could be diminished. The most obvious way to fix this problem is to call your provider and get the right information. The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) website also have a helpful search feature that assists with getting your provider’s SPIN.
2.) Demonstrate that you are pursuing the most cost-effective option.
You’ve heard this advice countless times since you started applying for E-rate funds, but it can’t be overstated enough. USAC takes this requirement very seriously. Since you are applying for public money, you must indicate that you are doing everything to make sure money is not wasted.
To show where your requested funds would go, include a rigorously itemized list of all the services you are looking for. One smart thing to do is mention that you are looking for a certain service or its equivalent – meaning that you are not married to the service you’ve already found in the case that a cheaper option is out there.
3.) Be meticulous about the dates your contracts cover.
You need to be crystal clear on your form of when you plan to start and end the services you are requesting. Don’t plan on receiving any services beyond the expiration date of your contract, or else the services will not be paid for.
4.) Have your Form 470 available as a reference.
When filling out your Form 471, make sure to have the Form 470 you’ve already filed on hand. There is plenty of information on your Form 470 you now need to keep in mind and make sure does not change. For instance, the Contract Award Date must be on or after the Contract Date which is determined by the Form 470.
Another reason to keep your Form 470 handy is…
5.) The services listed on your Form 470 and Form 471 have to match precisely.
A very common mistake districts seem to be making is using vague language on their 470, then specifying their request on the Form 471. However, the specification actually amounts to a “substantial difference” between the service you previously requested, and the one you’re going for now.
An example: If on your Form 470 you wanted to open the option for a Fiber Network and stated that are looking for a “Dark Fiber Network”, then you need to repeat that exact request on your next form. If you do not repeat the exact request and state something else like “Self-Provisioned Fiber Network” on your Form 471, your application now is different enough that you’ll most likely be denied.
6.) Don’t be late.
If one of your students is late with an essay, you can simply bump down their grade. However, if you are late with your E-rate applications, you stand to lose quite a large amount of money. Many districts take for granted the filings’ flexible deadlines. However, the truth is that every late application must receive an FCC Waiver, which is not something you can rely on.
7.) Don’t include any services you aren’t 100% sure are eligible.
Lastly, don’t lump together the majority of the services you are requesting (that you are sure are eligible) with even one service you think might not be covered. Things you are not sure about should be applied for separately so that if they are in fact ineligible, they can be denied individually. If you include a service you’re a little iffy on with the rest of your application, you stand to have your entire request denied.
We hope these tips help you avoid the common pitfalls when it comes to requesting E-rate funding and filing your Form 471. If you have questions or additional tips to help your fellow E-rate filers, leave a comment below or contact us at govcontracts@2NDGEAR.com.
For more on E-rate, check out our additional blogs here.
2NDGEAR has been an E-rate Service Provider (SPIN 143044100) since 2015.