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 2022: 7/1/2023 – 6/30/2024) – p.5
  4. Current Funding Year Application Steps (FY 2021: 7/1/2022 – 6/30/2023) – p.13
  5. Previous Funding Year Application Steps (FY 2020: 7/1/2021 – 6/30/2022) – p.18


Brief Program Overview

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 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 five questions and take the appropriate action where needed.

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

One Portal is the umbrella system that contains the EPC Portal (the E-rate Productivity Center), the E-rate Form 472 BEAR Reimbursement System, and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) application system. The EPC Portal is the central portal where all E-rate applications are filed and processes/correspondence are completed. Each organization has an EPC Account, and each EPC Account has an EPC Account Administrator (AA) and EPC Users. If you are new to E-rate or to an organization, it is likely that you do not have an EPC User Account set up for your entity’s EPC poral (EPC Accounts are not transferable between organizations).

There are two ways to establish your EPC User Account:

  • Via Your Organization’s EPC Account Administrator:

o   Your school or library’s EPC Account Administrator (AA) 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 and log into EPC. After inside the EPC portal, the new User will click on “Tasks” in the upper toolbar, select the pending Task, and then accept the EPC Terms and Conditions.

  • Via USAC’s Customer Service Center (CSC):

o   If your school or library’s EPC Account Administrator is no longer with the organization, or if you’re unsure who your EPC 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, if needed.


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.  The initial MFA authentication defaults to your e-mail address; be sure to add text message MFA authentication as shown in the Guide.

Technical Hints:  Before you begin:

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

If you experience problems setting up your One Portal account, call USAC’s CSC at 888-203-8100.


3) Do you have Access to the BEAR Reimbursement System?

If an applicant pays vendor invoices in full, they must seek reimbursement from USAC using the Form 472 BEAR Form which is currently within the One Portal system but not in EPC. The Form 472 BEAR Form system does not require a separate password, but you must receive “access” from USAC to file this form. To know if USAC has provided such access, look at the Dashboard when you log into One Portal. If it doesn’t show the FCC Form 472 (BEAR) as a separate option below the EPC option , you do not yet have access (which is most likely if you are a new EPC User). To request such access, complete a BEAR access template available here: https://www.usac.org/wp-content/uploads/e-rate/documents/Forms/BEAR-Access-Template.xlsx, then create a customer service case in EPC and explain that you need to be able to access the BEAR filing platform.  See: http://e-ratepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Form-472-BEAR-Access-Request-Guide-.pdf for a helpful guide on how to request BEAR Access.

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 News Brief?

USAC emails monthly and as-needed News Brief to applicants.   If you are not currently receiving the USAC News Briefs, go to: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/resources/news-brief/ to subscribe.



Site graciously hosted by the Capital Area IU 15 | Site designed and maintained by Silver Penny Studio