Where to Start

Entering E-rate:  Where to Start

E-rate is a daunting process for those new to the program. Not only do they have to learn and understand the intricate rules, but they also have to jump into the E-rate process mid-funding year cycle and determine what’s been done thus far, and what remains to be completed for previous and upcoming funding years. The purpose of this Guide is to assist new E-rate contacts with this process so they can be certain that no deadlines have been missed and all eligible funding has been collected.

E-rate Onboarding Guide

The Guide contains five sections:

  1. Program Overview and Resources – p.1
  2. Initial Questions for New E-rate Contacts – p.3
  3. Upcoming Funding Year Application Steps (FY 2021: 7/1/2021 – 6/30/2022) – p.5
  4. Current Funding Year Application Steps (FY 2020: 7/1/2020 – 6/30/2019) – p.12
  5. Previous Funding Year Application Steps (FY 2019: 7/1/2019 – 6/30/2020) – p.17

The Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program provides discounts to eligible K-12 public and private schools and public libraries in order to obtain affordable internet access and telecommunications services. E-rate funds the following service types: Data Transmission Services and/or Internet Access (called Category 1); and Internal Connections, Managed Internal Broadband Services, and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections (called Category 2). Discounts range from 20-90 percent of the costs of eligible services, depending on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status. In order to receive E-rate discounts, schools and libraries must competitively bid on the USAC website the eligible services for which they may be seeking discounts in the upcoming funding year, and after a minimum of 28 days, select the most cost-effective proposal. E-rate funding is then requested annually by applying to USAC and if discounts are approved, applicants receive discounted vendor bills, or pay the bills in full and seek reimbursement process after services have been provided. The application process begins 6-12 months in advance of the funding year. Additional resources to learn the program basics:

In addition to reviewing these resources and websites, new E-rate contacts are strongly encouraged to attend in-person E-rate beginners’ trainings that are held each fall, review previous training materials (see http://e-ratepa.org/?page_id=745), and watch USAC’s self-paced tutorials and videos at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/trainings/.

 


 

Initial Questions for New E-rate Contacts

When coming into the program anew, E-rate contacts should first review these four questions and take the appropriate action where needed.

1) Are you a “User” in your school or library’s EPC account?

EPC (the E-rate Productivity Center) is USAC’s online portal where all E-rate applications are filed and processes/correspondence are completed, with the exception of the reimbursement process. Each organization has an EPC Account, and each EPC Account has an EPC Account Administrator (AA) and EPC Users. Before any further action can be taken, a new E-rate contact must first determine if they are set up as a User for their school or library’s EPC Account.

  • Go to https://portal.usac.org/suite/, click ‘Continue’ then ‘Forgot Password’ (do not enter a username or password on this page). On the next page, enter your e-mail address, all lowercase. If the system doesn’t send a password reset prompt to your e-mail address within 2 minutes, you likely are not yet an EPC User.
  • To become an EPC User:

o  Your school or library’s EPC Account Administrator should log into EPC and click on “Manage Users” in the top right corner of their EPC Landing Page, then “Create New User,” and complete the required fields. The new User will then receive an e-mail message from the EPC system with instructions to create their password, log into EPC, click on “Tasks” and accept the EPC Terms and Conditions.

o  If your school or library’s EPC Account Administrator is no longer with the organization, or if you’re unsure who your AA is, contact USAC at 888-203-8100 and they will assist you with becoming an EPC User and establishing a new Account Administrator for your organization.

2) Have you established your One Portal multi-factor authentication (MFA) validation choices?

One Portal is USAC’s umbrella sign-in system that requires all users to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) before they gain access to the EPC and BEAR Reimbursement Systems. The One-Portal/MFA set up process requires several steps and I encourage you to review the One Portal/MFA Set Up Guide at http://e-ratepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/One-Portal-MFA-Set-Up-Guide.pdf to walk through the process. If you don’t have an E-rate PIN (or had one but can’t find it), complete the short PIN Request template at: http://www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/xls/PIN-request-template.xlsx and then upload it into EPC by creating a Customer Service Case.  USAC will then e-mail you a new PIN in about a week.  (Remember that you must be an EPC User in order to create a Customer Service Case in EPC. See question 1 above.)

  • BEAR Access: Currently, after you log in to One Portal, you will still have to submit your BEAR credentials (username and password) in order to gain entry to the BEAR System. In the future, USAC will integrate the two logins but for now, there is an extra step required to enter the BEAR System
  • Technical Hints: Before you begin:

✔ Be sure to use a Chrome or Firefox browser
✔ Disable all privacy features (such as EFF Privacy Badger)

3) Do you have a BEAR PIN?

If an applicant pays vendor invoices in full, they must seek reimbursement from USAC using the Form 472 BEAR Form. BEARs are NOT filed in EPC; they are filed in USAC’s legacy system (the system that existed prior to EPC). In order to request reimbursements/file Form 472 BEARs, you must have a BEAR PIN that is unique to you (PINs are not shared among school or library staff).

  • If you don’t have an E-rate PIN (or had one but can’t find it), complete the short PIN Request template at: http://www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/xls/PIN-request-template.xlsx and then upload it into EPC by creating a Customer Service Case.  USAC will then e-mail you a new PIN in about a week.  (Remember that you must be an EPC User in order to create a Customer Service Case in EPC.  See question 1 above.)

4) Are you subscribed to the PA E-rate Listserve?

The PA E-rate Coordinator maintains a one-way listserve that is used to disseminate regular updates about program changes, deadlines, funding commitments, training events, training guides and helpful reminders. If you are not currently receiving these regular E-rate updates from Julie Tritt Schell, the PA E-rate Coordinator, please e-mail her at jtschell@comcast.net and ask to be added to the list. All previous listserve messages (since the beginning of the program) are posted at: http://e-ratepa.org/?page_id=7751.

5) Are you subscribed to the USAC Weekly News Brief?

USAC emails a weekly News Brief to applicants each Friday. If you are not currently receiving the USAC News Briefs, go to: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/resources/news-brief/ to subscribe.


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