Bird’s eye view of the application process

Before we dive into the step-by-step posts about how to apply for funding, let’s take a step back and make sure you understand the application cycle for requesting E-rate Program funding.

This chart sums it up nicely:

Application process flow chart

Application process flow chart – click to enlarge

The steps you follow depend on many factors, including the services you’re requesting, the type of contract you need, and whether you’re part of a consortium. But in general, the process goes like this:

Competitive Bidding

  1. State your school/library’s needs on FCC Form 470, which initiates competitive bidding between potential service providers.
    • Wait at least 28 days while service providers provide proposals (bids) about the type and cost of service they can provide to you.
  2. Select the service provider with the most cost-effective offer and sign a contract.

Applying for Discounts

  1. Tell USAC what services you ordered by submitting FCC Form 471. It is strongly recommended that you submit it during the FCC Form 471 “filing window.”
  2. USAC reviews your request and issues a notice about its decisions on your funding request.

Services Start

  1. The service for which you requested funding starts.
    • Inform USAC that your services have started by submitting an FCC Form 486.


  1. Invoice USAC by submitting an FCC Form 472 or an FCC Form 474.

Each of these steps is nuanced, and sometimes has sub-steps — we really recommend browsing through all the application process steps on the E-rate Program website if you’re new or need a refresher about the program.

We’re here to help you

USAC is available to help you through every step of the application process. If you need assistance, you can submit a question by commenting on a post, through your EPC account, through Submit a Question, or by calling our Customer Service Bureau.

Related resources

  • E-rate Program Acronyms and Terms
  • FY2016 Eligible Services List
  • Upcoming Webinars for Beginners

Next week, we’ll start the step-by-step posts with how to activate and set up your account in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC), the E-rate Program’s online application portal.

One Comment

  1. Lorraine Borowski

    The USAC Application chart is wonderful. I really appreciate it as well as the information listed below the chart.
    Thank you very much. Lorraine Borowski, Decorah Public Library

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