Latest Update: EducationSuperHighway selected by the San Francisco Business Times as a 2017 Tech and Innovation Award winner Read more >>

The Form 471 has changed significantly for the 2015 funding year, and you are now required to complete your E-rate application online. The FAQ below clarifies terminology used in each of the four sections of the form, to ensure you avoid common mistakes in submitting the funding requests you are making for your school or district.

Basic Information

Billed Entity Number (BEN): How do I find my school or school district’s Billed Entity Number (BEN)?

Each school and school district is assigned a BEN (a unique identifier) by USAC.  You can find yours on the USAC Search Tools website.

FCC Registration Number: How do I find my FCC registration number?

You can obtain your FCC Registration Number by visiting the FCC Registration Number website, or calling the FCC Registration Number help line at 1-877-480-3201 (Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET).

Application Number and Security Code: How do I reference my application number and security code?

Your application number and security code will be emailed to the email address you provide in the form.  This allows you to save your progress on the form and complete the remaining steps later, should you have additional questions you need to clarify to be accurate in your application.

app num and sec code

Give this application a nickname: How can I use nicknames to identify my district’s Form 471 applications?

To keep various Form 471s organized, assign each one a nickname that identifies if the application is requesting eligible services under Category 1 or Category 2.  If you are filing multiple Form 471 applications for Category 1 and Category 2 services, then select a nickname that identifies the category and the type of service for which you are applying.  For example, the Form 471 nickname that reflects all eligible broadband services could be saved as “Category 1: Internet”.

Contact Information

Complete your contact information and move on to the next step.

Discount Calculation

Category of Service

Select whether this Form 471 is for Category 1 or Category 2 services.  Use caution, since once you select “Category 1” or “Category 2” you cannot deselect it.

Entering my School or District entities: How do I add the school or district entities for which I am applying to begin calculating my district’s discount?

In the “Entity Number” field, enter your district’s BEN and click “add entity”.  You will see your district’s name appear with the options of “Enter Data” or “Connectivity Questions.” Choose “Enter Data.”  Under the section entitled “Entity Information and Budget Calculation” click on the “+” sign to begin adding the schools and non-instructional facilities within your district.  See USAC’s video for step-by-step instructions.

add record

plus button

NCES Code : What is an NCES code and where can I verify them?

An NCES code is a school or school district’s unique identifier, much like the BEN.  An NCES code is assigned by the National Center for Educational Statistics and is used to correlate particular school characteristics such as student population, locale, etc.  When adding a school entity in this section, the form will pre-populate an NCES code for you.  Please verify that NCES code here to ensure USAC has the correct NCES code for your school and district.

Urban or Rural: How do I know whether my entity is urban or rural?

Use the Urban/Rural lookup tool provided by USAC by entering the entity number for your school or district.

NIF: What is NIF?

All non-instructional facilities (NIF) are defined by a district building without classrooms and are eligible to receive discounts on Category 1 services.  Examples of a district’s non-instructional facilities include, administrative buildings, school bus barns and garages, athletic facilities, etc. The USAC website provides more detail.

Alternative Discount: What is Alternative Discount?

The primary measure in determining E-rate discounts is the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches under the National School Lunch Program.  The FCC does identify other ways to determine a school’s level of need on the USAC website.

E-rate Discount: How do I calculate my district’s E-rate discount?

This year an applicant discount will be calculated at the school district level, regardless of which schools within the district are receiving these services.  After entering all your entities for which you are applying, to calculate your district’s E-rate discount, you must enter the student population and the number of students that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for each school. After you add each school’s information, click “Save and Recalculate” and the tool will calculate your district’s E-rate discount.  Note that the “Save and Recalculate” button may not be visible at the bottom of the screen, unless you have edited your entity information. For information on the online form and the discount templates see the USAC News Brief about Discount Calculations.

discount calc worksheet

calc disc rate

Internet access of your school district: How do I calculate my school or school district’s Internet access bandwidth per user?

To calculate your school district’s bandwidth per 1000 users, simply divide the total Internet access bandwidth your district receives by the total number of users (students and staff). For example if your district receives 2000 Mbps of Internet and has 1500 users, your bandwidth per user would be 1.33 Mbps/user (2000mbps / 1500 users = 1.33 Mbps/user). Multiply your answer by 1000 to approximate the appropriate selection, which in this case would be 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) per 1000 users.

connectivity question

Schools with scalable WAN connections: What does scalable mean and how do I identify Wide Area Network connections that are scalable to 10 Gbps?

We’ve found that the only broadband product scalable to 10 Gbps is fiber. This question is trying to understand the number of schools in your district that have a fiber connection. If only a portion of schools in your district have fiber circuits, indicate the number of schools.

Assessing your district’s LAN/WLAN capacity: How do I assess my district’s LAN/WLAN capacity?

Ask your tech director to provide you with guidance regarding each school’s LAN/WLAN sufficiency to support their educational goals with the capacity they have today.

Funding Requests (Category 1)

Service Types for Category 1: How do I identify which Category 1 service type to choose?

Due to last year’s E-rate Modernization order, there are three possible types of services eligible under Category 1.  We’ve found that most services can be categorized into either Internet Access or Voice services.  Some examples of these services and the appropriate service type are:  

  1. Internet Access: Fiber (Lit and Dark), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable Modem, etc.
  2. Voice: VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), POTS, Local & long distance, etc. These and other voice-related legacy services are subject to an annual 20% phase down.  For more information, refer to page 15-16 of FCC’s eligible services list. Additionally, refer to the USAC News Brief from 2/9/2015 on this topic.
Narrative on Funding Request Form: What should I include in the narrative box in the Category 1 Funding Request page?

The Narrative allows applicants to clearly identify for USAC the eligible and ineligible services being requested.  For example, if you are applying for your district’s main Internet circuit then include “This Item 21 is for Internet access that serves the entire school district.”  Or if you are applying for your district’s Wide Area Network include, “This Item 21 is for the WAN transport connections between our 10 schools.”  We also advise applicants to include any ineligible services within the Narrative.


➽ Type of Service Requested: Which “Type of Service” option should I select?

table for funding options

Type of Connection for “Digital Transmission Service”: How do I identify the “Type of Connection” of the broadband service being requested?

It is critical to identify the appropriate “Type of Connection” of the broadband services reflected on each line item.  For example, if your school district or school leases fiber from a service provider, identify this product as “Leased Lit Fiber.”  If you are unsure of the product for your Internet and/or Transport connections, please clarify with your Tech Director. Below is a chart that can help you select the appropriate Connection Type:

discount table

➽ Purpose: How do I identify the “Purpose” of the service being requested?

Purpose identifies how your district or school is using the broadband service.  USAC defines the three possible purposes as:

  1. Internet: A connection from a particular building or aggregation point (such as a district’s central hub or a library’s main branch) to an Internet service provider.  This can also be a direct Internet access connection for a single school or library not on a Wide Area Network.  See Internet Connection on diagram below.
  2. Transport: Dedicated data connections between eligible school or library buildings often referred to as a Wide Area network.  This should not include your Internet access circuit; direct Internet connections should be listed separately as “Internet”. See Wide Area Network on diagram below.
  3. Internet and Transport: A bundled service of both Internet and Transport circuits.  These circuits include the connections between all of your schools as well as the connection between your schools and the Internet.  Only choose this if your provider does not provide an itemized version that separates out the costs for Internet and Transport.  If they do itemize, please enter your line items separately as either “Internet” or “Transport”.

network diagram

Bandwidth Upload/Download: Should I use Mbps or Gbps to identify the bandwidth of this service’s connections?

To ensure quality data, we are advising applicants to use consistent data transfer rates. For example if you receive 2 Gbps of Internet and have ten 100 Mbps Transport (WAN) connections, please ensure that both funding requests use Mbps. Your funding request for Internet should be identified as 2000 Mbps and your ten Transport (WAN) connections as 100 Mbps. All broadband speeds must be greater than “0”.

Burstable Bandwidth: What does “burstable” mean?

We define burstable bandwidth as the customer’s ability to use more bandwidth, temporarily, than what is contracted for. Sometimes you may incur overage charges with this service.

Last Mile Connections: How do I identify a “Last Mile” connection?

For Category 1 Internet funding requests, you must identify which line items represent “last mile” connections and indicate “Yes” or “No.”  USAC defines a last mile connection as a connection to an individual building, such as a WAN connection OR a direct Internet connection for any school or library that does not have a WAN.  The main Internet access connection from the service provider to a district hub does not qualify as a last mile connection. For more information, refer to this USAC News Brief. Note that in a subsequent step, you will need to allocate which entities are the recipients of the Last Mile connections.

➽ WAN: How do I identify a “WAN (Wide Area Network)” connection and what is it?

Wide Area Network (WAN) connections provide broadband transport between schools and/or buildings within a district as shown below. These connections DO NOT include any Internet access circuits that directly connects a district or school to an Internet Service Provider. If the funding request you are applying for reflects Wide Area Network connections, make sure the purpose is identified as “Transport” AND you select “Yes” for WAN.

WAN diagram

Manage Recipients: For the line items I have identified as “Last Mile” connections, how do I identify which schools receive last mile connections?

For every line item labeled as “Last Mile” applicants must identify the entities that receive this service and the number of connections they each receive. You may even see the message “this line item has incomplete recipients,” as the form will not let you continue without identifying the schools receiving the services.

funing requests

To identify the schools, click on the blue button “Manage Recipients” and a pre-populated form of all the schools within your district will appear.  Simply identify which entities receive the “Last Mile” connections. Note that the number of recipients needs to match the quantity of lines for the line item.

managing recipients


Preparing to Apply

Before Getting Started: What materials should I have compiled before I begin filling out my 2015-16 Form 471?

Before you begin your online Form 471, assemble the materials you’ll need to make the process as efficient as possible. USAC has a video to help applicants with what information to collect before you begin.  Suggested materials include:

  • Invoices and contracts from your service providers
  • 2014-15 Form 470
  • Previous funding year’s Form 471s
  • Student population for each school and the number of students per school that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program
  • Talk to your tech director and ask for your district’s broadband network diagram.  It should identify the number of connections and the bandwidths for your district’s Internet and Transport (WAN) connections. This will help you on the Category 1 Item 21 portion of the application. Also, in preparation for the Connectivity Questions, ask him or her their perspective on your district or school’s LAN/WLAN sufficiency!