E-Rate is a federal discount program providing reimbursement to schools and libraries for telephone, Internet, and similar services. For specific information on the program including due dates, eligibility requirements, and complete details of the program please visit USAC.

Basic E-Rate Resources

USAC Glossary and Acronyms
USAC E-Rate Eligible Services List
USAC E-Rate Deadlines
USAC Forms

MHLS is available to assist member libraries throughout the application process. Feel free to call the IT Department for support and advice.

Application Steps

These guidelines are provided to assist libraries in completing their E-Rate applications. MHLS is not, however, involved in administering the grants. Please refer to the USAC site for the most current information.

Also note that all documentation related to E-Rate should be saved indefinitely. All documentation related to E-rate may be requested as part of an audit, which can occur after funds have already been disbursed and spent.

  1. The E-Rate funding year is generally from July 1st to June 30th the following year however the initial application process customarily begins in November/December of the prior year.
  2. Review Glossary and Acronyms
  3. Review Eligible Services List
  4. Review Deadlines
  5. Check if Rural vs. Urban
  6. Review Free & Reduced Students
  7. Review Reimbursement Percentage
  8. Prepare a Technology Plan – (No longer required but still advised!). Technology plans can cover up to three years. If an approved plan is already in effect it is not necessary to submit an additional plan. Plans are approved by MHLS and filed with the Division of Library Development
  9. Submit Form 470 – we advise that you do this between December 1st and December 25th. We also recommend that you indicate in Item 13 of Form 470 that any vendors who might wish to bid on this Form 470 must reference this specific Form 470’s identification number. This will assist you in distinguishing from general marketing materials and bids which must be considered when deciding on an approved vendor.
  10. Wait at least 28 Days. During this period of time vendors will contact you to provide services listed on your Form 470. Vendors who meet the necessary requirements of your service request (which includes the requirement of referencing Form 470) should be considered in a bidding matrix. Your existing vendor’s service is considered a bid as well. The necessity of taking bids is only relevant if you are not within a multi-year contract. The bidding matrix can be designed by each applicant to weigh any number of criterion that are considered important, however cost must be the most heavily weighted criteria in the matrix. Sample bidding matrix.
  11. Submit Form 471 – Make sure that you have waited at least 28 days since filing your Form 470. Indicate on Form 471 the vendors chosen to provide the services requested in Form 470. Make sure to choose the provider that scores the best on your bidding matrix (unless continuing service in a multi-year contract).
  12. Wait until you receive a Funding Commitment Decision Letter. Respond to any questions from program administrators within 15 days.
  13. File Form 486 after receiving Funding Commitment Decision Letters confirming that you do or do not intend to go forward purchasing the services that have been approved for funding.
  14. Purchase services and file invoices with USAC.
  15. File Form 472 (“BEAR”) to receive reimbursement for services that are not being discounted by the vendor.

Additional steps may be necessary but the listed process should cover basic Priority 1 applications.

Other Support Resources

E-Rate Listserv:
E-Rate Central Email
USAC Submit a Question

Upcoming Events