E-Rate News Flash 24-01
January 16, 2024
E-Rate News Flash
Table of Contents
- Important Deadlines
- E-Rate Training and Assistance
- E-Rate Process: Activities to Work on Now
- Grant Opportunities – Coming Soon!
- Conferences – Coming Soon!
- Bright Spots – Coming Soon!
Improved News Flash will Launch March 6!
Starting March 6, 2024, the News Flash will expand to address the latest and greatest K12 broadband news and opportunities beyond E-Rate. Stay tuned for re-branding updates and streamlined distribution to reach your inbox the 1st Tuesday of each month.
March 27, 2024 is the Annual E-Rate FCC Form 471 Application Deadline for Funding Year 2024
The annual E-Rate application window for Funding Year 2024 opens on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 and will close on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at 8:59 p.m. PDT. All school and school district applicants who are seeking E-Rate funding for eligible services received between July 1, 2024 and June 30, 2025, must file their annual funding requests in the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC’s) E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) online application portal by the March 27 deadline.
Where To Find Information on Services Eligible for E-Rate Funding
The annual E-Rate Eligible Services List is approved and posted on USAC’s website. The list for Funding Year 2024 has been updated to include a new Category One eligible service, Wi-Fi on school buses. USAC recently issued guidance on how to competitively bid and apply for this newly-eligible service in its December 15, 2023, Schools and Libraries News Brief.
The Federal Communications Commission is Seeking Public Comment on Proposals to Assist Schools
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has opened two rulemakings for public comment that can benefit schools eligible for the E-Rate program.
Addressing the Homework Gap Through the E-Rate Program
The COVID-19 pandemic period Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program provided funding to schools to purchase broadband services for students to use in order to participate in remote learning activities while away from school. As the ECF program will end on June 30, 2024, the FCC is proposing to continue the funding of Wi-Fi hotspot service under the E-Rate program. In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC proposes to adopt similar requirements to the ECF and to limit funding to commercially-available individual hotspots and data plans. The public comment period for this proceeding will close on January 29, 2024. Comments may be filed in the Electronic Comment Filing System and may be viewed under Proceeding Number 21-31.
FCC Proposes Creation of Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program
Over the past several years, advocates have called on the FCC to expand the E-Rate program with funding to assist schools in their cybersecurity efforts. The FCC is proposing a $200 million three-year cybersecurity pilot program, which will both offer funding to help schools defend against cyber threats and inform the FCC of the scope of cybersecurity efforts and their associated costs. Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments in the Electronic Comment Filing System until February 27, 2024 using Proceeding Number 23-234.
Comment on California’s Digital Equity Plan
The State of California has taken a major step toward closing the digital divide with the release of the draft Digital Equity Plan. The plan will allow the state to apply for a Digital Equity Capacity Grant funded by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021. Interested entities may view the plan and submit comments until January 25, 2024.
E-Rate deadlines may be viewed or calculated on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website.
January 29 Invoice Deadline
The deadline to ask for E-Rate reimbursement for Funding Year 2022 non-recurring services is January 29, 2024. Non-recurring services typically include Category One broadband installation and Category Two internal connections. You may view invoicing deadlines for your organization by using USAC’s E-Rate FRN Invoice Deadline Tool and filtering for your organization’s name or Billed Entity Number.
Request an Extension if More Time is Needed
Schools may request a single one-time 120-day extension of the January 29 deadline. However, the Invoice Deadline Extension Request must be submitted to USAC on or before the January 29, 2024 deadline. Requests received after this deadline cannot be processed by USAC. There is no penalty to file an extension request, and all requests that are filed by the deadline will be granted. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not invoicing is complete on an approved funding request, it is best to file the request for extension. More information on how to submit extension requests may be found on USAC’s website.
FCC Form 486 Filing Reminder
The FCC Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children's Internet Protection Act Certification FormFCC Form 486 must be filed within 120 days from the date of the issuance of the Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) or the start date of E-Rate eligible services, whichever is later.
Funding Year 2023
Form 486 Due Date
Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2023
Funding Year 2022
Form 486 Due Date
Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2022
Applicants missing these or earlier deadlines should closely monitor their News Feed in the E-Rate Productivity Center for an FCC Form 486 Urgent Reminder Letter notification. This letter will allow the applicant a 15-day extension to submit an FCC Form 486 without penalty.
E-Rate Training and Assistance
K12 High Speed Network E-Rate Support Resources
K12HSN’s E-Rate Support Team is available to assist schools with questions during the E-Rate application window. Schools may reach out to the team via e-mail to request support by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The team’s webinars and office hours specific to the FCC Form 471 window are available at K12HSN’s E-Rate training website and include:
|Topic of Webinar
|Date and Time (Pacific)
|Registration or Recording Link
|Preparing for E-Rate Filing Window
|View Recording, Passcode: HcU6#1ab
|Filing Annual E-Rate Form 471 for Category 1 Services
|January 17, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register at this link
|Filing Annual E-Rate Form 471 for Category 2 Services
|January 14, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register at this link
Previously recorded sessions and materials are located at K12HSN’s website. Please contact the team to request future webinar topics.
Universal Services Administrative Company Recorded Resources
USAC has pre-recorded webinars and other materials available at the USAC website. Upcoming webinars include:
|Topic of Webinar
|Date and Time (Pacific)
|Registration or Recording Link
|Eligible Services E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
|January 18, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register for Eligible Services E-Rate Question & Answer
|Competitive Bidding (FCC Form 470) E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
|January 23, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register for Competitive Bidding (FCC Form 470) E-Rate Question & Answer
|Service Provider Selection and the FCC Form 471 E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
|January 25, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register for Service Provider Selection and the FCC Form 471 E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
|Pre-Commit (FCC Forms 470, 471, ESL, etc.) E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
|February 22, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
|Register for Pre-Commit (FCC Forms 470, 471, ESL, etc.) E-Rate Question & Answer (Q&A) Session
Please subscribe to USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief to receive the most current program information and announcements.
Emergency Connectivity Fund Resources
E-Rate Process: Activities to Work on Now
Retain Documentation of the Competitive Bidding Process
The E-Rate program has extensive documentation retention requirements, much longer than is typical for most school district documents. The program requires all documents that support an application be retained 10 years from the end of a supported contract or the last date to receive service on a funding request, whichever is later. Any E-Rate funding request may be subject to audit or inspection, and a strong E-Rate record retention practice is necessary to support that a school district applicant complied with all program requirements. At this time of year, when long-term contracts are being competitively bid and awarded, make sure to retain a complete record of the competitive bidding process. These documents may include, but are not limited to:
- FCC Form 470
- Request for Proposal (RFP) and other documents associated with the competitive solicitation including all addenda
- Correspondence between bidders and the district concerning the bidding process
- Copies of all bids received including those winning, losing, and disqualified
- Documentation of the bidder selection process including the scoring matrix, if there is one, and any notes supporting the rationale of scoring of bids
- Board meeting documents supporting approval of contract or purchase
Contract, purchase order, or other evidence of a legally binding agreement
Because school districts may award contracts up to five years for services, documentation of the Funding Year 2024 competitive bidding process may need to be retained to at least June 30, 2035 or later, depending on when contractual obligations end. Developing good document retention policies and habits is important to maintain program compliance and eliminate the risk of having funds denied or returned to the program at a later date. For more information, including a comprehensive list of documents to retain for audits, please familiarize yourself with USAC’s website on document retention.
FCC Form 471 Filing Tips and Next Steps
As the FCC Form 471 deadline approaches on March 27, 2024, school district applicants should allow for adequate time to complete the necessary information for their applications and to submit and certify them by the deadline to be considered “within window.”
Review of Existing Services/Contracts
E-Rate applicants should review and verify contracts for all eligible services expected to continue through the next funding year (July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025), review bills for service, and ensure funding requests filed include all eligible services and costs expected, including taxes and surcharges. USAC may request copies of existing contracts or bills to support the amount listed on the funding request.
New Services and Estimating Taxes and Surcharges
E-Rate applicants should review any bids and/or new contracts for service to ensure they are complete and include the entire costs of all services you expect to order in the 2024 funding year. If they do not include estimated taxes and surcharges, make sure to include these estimates in your funding requests. Some E-Rate eligible services, such as Internal Connections, are subject to California sales tax, while recurring broadband services may be subject to California Public Utilities Commission surcharges. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not your services will be subject to these, contact your awarded service provider for clarification. For current California sales tax rates, please visit the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s website. For current California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Surcharges, please visit the CPUC’s website.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions to K12HSN via email email@example.com.