E-Rate News Flash 19-15

E-Rate
  Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Issue 19-15

October 16, 2019

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

·       Announcements and News

·       Pending Dates and Deadlines

·       Upcoming Training Events

·       E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Announcements

Administrative Window Opens

As of October 11, 2019, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) has opened the Administrative Window for updating entity profile information in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal. Profile information includes an entity's classification, address, enrollment, National School Lunch Program information, and Urban/Rural status and is the basis of the discount calculation in the FCC Forms 471. USAC provides this courtesy update window each fall prior to the opening of the annual FCC Form 471 filing window. Applicants should carefully monitor and/or update their entity profiles from now until early next year at which time USAC will lock the data in EPC until the FCC Form 471 application window closes.

FCC Form 470 Drop-Down Menu Public Notice

On October 1, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released DA 19-986 at docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-986A1.pdf seeking public comment on the FCC Form 470 drop-down menus. The FCC is asking for comment on how to re-structure or re-word the naming of services that are currently hard-coded in the form as drop-down selections. Because some applicants face confusion in trying to decipher the technical terminology in the current form, the FCC is seeking to simplify and clarify the descriptions of services.

Interested parties are encouraged to file comments in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) at www.fcc.gov/ecfs under proceeding 13-184 by October 31, 2019, and reply comments by November 15, 2019. Parties may also view posted comments in EFCS by doing a search in ECFS under proceeding number 13-184.

Important Deadline Reminder: October 28, 2019, Invoice Deadline

The deadline for invoicing of Funding Year 2018 recurring services and one-time special construction is October 28, 2019. This is the last date an applicant may file a FCC Form 472 Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) form or a service provider may file a FCC Form 474 Service Provider Invoice (SPI) for E-rate reimbursement without an extension.

One-Time Request for Extension

Applicants or service providers may request a single one-time 120-day extension to file additional claims for reimbursement. However, the Invoice Deadline Extension Request must be submitted to USAC on or before the October 28, 2019, 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 a Funding Request, it is best to file the request for extension. These requests are to be submitted in EPC as described in the September 20 USAC News Brief at www.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=915.  

FCC Form 498 Business Type(s) Reminders

On October 3, 2019, USAC sent a reminder to applicants with outstanding FCC Form 498 business type(s) asking applicants to please update their FCC Form 498 by October 31, 2019. For more information on the FCC Form 498 updates, please refer to the August 9th USAC News Brief at www.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=897 and the August 16th USAC News Brief at www.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=908 which include information and instructions for applicants and services providers to update their business type(s) and DUNS Number information on their FCC Form 498 in the E-rate Productivity Center. Applicants and service providers are to complete these updates as soon as possible so as not to experience delays in reimbursements as the October 28 invoice deadline approaches.

Please Note: If applicants are receiving and paying bills from their service provider in full, a completed FCC Form 498 is required to receive reimbursements via the FCC Form 472 BEAR invoicing form. However, applicants are not required to file a FCC Form 498 if they are solely using the discounted bill (FCC Form 474 Service Provider Invoice) method of receiving E-rate reimbursements.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2019

USAC released FY2019 Waves 25-28 weekly on September 19, 2019, through October 10, 2019. As of October 11, 2019, cumulative commitments for California applicants for Category One services are $194,991,594.64 and $52,943,764.77 for Category Two services.

Funding Year 2018

USAC released FY2018 Wave 63 and 64 weekly on September 30, 2019, and October 7, 2019, respectively.  As of October 11, 2019, cumulative commitments for California applicants for Category One services are $219,442,955.09 and $58,034,470.96 for Category Two services.

Pending Dates and Deadlines

Applicants may view or calculate their E-rate deadlines on USAC's website at www.usac.org/sl/tools/deadlines/default.aspx.

FCC Form 486 Filing Reminder

The FCC Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children's Internet Protection Act Certification Form) at www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/pdf/forms/486.PDF notifies USAC that the billed entity and/or the eligible entities that it represents is receiving, or has received service in the relevant funding year from the named service provider(s).

Funding Year 2019

The First FCC Form 486 deadline for FY 2019 is October 28, 2019, for funding waves 1-10 with services starting July 1, 2019.

Funding Year 2018

FCC Form 486 must be filed 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. For ongoing recurring services, starting on July 1, 2018, the following deadlines have passed or are approaching in the next month.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

1-57

4/20/2018-3/22/2019

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2018

58

6/13/2019

10/11/2019

59-60

*No Waves

 

61

9/16/2019

1/14/2020

 

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.

Upcoming Training Events

Numerous training opportunities available for E-rate applicants.

USAC Applicant Fall Training Event

USAC still has space available at its October 31 – November 1, 2019, applicant training event to be held at the California State University, San Marcos. The training, available to attendees free of charge, begins with an optional half-day afternoon session targeted to beginners followed by a full-day training that includes separate breakout sessions for beginners and for more advanced users. Applicant training registration is available at events.eply.com/....

USAC Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars are posted on the USAC website at www.usac.org/sl/about/outreach/training/webinars.aspx

K12 High Speed Network Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars are posted on the K12HSN website at www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/trainings.

E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Options for Delayed Processing of FCC Form 472 (BEAR) Invoices

If applicants are experiencing delays with USAC's processing of their FCC Form 472 (BEAR) submissions for reimbursement, applicants can call the Client Services Bureau (888) 203-8100 or submit a Customer Case in EPC at portal.usac.org/suite to request a BEAR status update. Standard processing times for BEAR invoices will vary between 7-90 days. If more than 90 days have lapsed, applicants are encouraged to reach out to USAC to request a status update.

Please Note: USAC will issue a BEAR Notification Letter (BNL) with disbursement information for any BEAR payment, reduction, and/or denial.

Below are a few scenarios and recommendations for applicants experiencing invoice processing issues and how they relate to invoicing deadlines:

What should applicants do if a BEAR invoice is rejected before the invoicing deadline?

Applicants should resubmit a new FCC Form 472 (BEAR) invoice.

What should applicants do if a BEAR invoice is rejected after the invoice deadline?

If the last day to invoice on the funding request has passed, applicants must submit an invoice deadline extension appeal to USAC. Applicants have 60 calendar days from the date of the BEAR Notification Letter (BNL) to file an appeal with USAC carefully following the appeal instructions as outlined on the BNL. Once USAC issues a decision, applicants will either be able to resubmit a BEAR invoice within a new invoicing timeframe/deadline, or applicants will have to request a waiver of the invoice deadline from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

What should applicants do if there are pending or unpaid BEAR invoices as an invoicing deadline approaches? 

Applicants should submit a one-time 120-day Invoice Deadline Extension Request to allow sufficient time for USAC to issue a BEAR payment, reduction and/or denial.

Competitive Bidding: How to Ensure Compliance with FCC rules, State Law, Education Code and Local Policy 

FCC competitive bid requirements stipulate that an eligible school, library, or consortium seek bids for eligible services via an FCC Form 470. The FCC Form 470 shall include a list of requested services, include sufficient information to enable bidders to reasonably determine needs, and be certified by a person authorized to request bids on behalf of the applicant.

Submitting a Request for Proposal (RFP) is not always required by the E-rate program. However, one is often necessary to adequately describe services being requested. From an FCC and USAC perspective, an RFP is any document or set of documents beyond the Form 470 that provides additional information on the service(s) being requested.

Services being requested must be utilized for educational purposes and by eligible locations. Services may not be sold, resold, or transferred for money or anything of value except as allowed under resale and transfer of services rules at www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/.... The FCC Form 470 and any supporting RFP documentation must remain open for a minimum of 28 days prior to awarding a contract. Applicants may not specify a preference for a specific brand or provider of service unless it is followed by the words "or equivalent." Applicants may not make procurements so restrictive that only one bidder can provide service. Any disqualification factors must be identified in the FCC Form 470 and/or corresponding RFP documents. At the end of the competitive bidding period, applicants must consider all bids received and evaluate bids using the price for E-rate eligible services as the primary factor. The competitive bidding process must be open and fair. Bidders cannot have "inside information" or have contributed to the development or content of the FCC Form 470 and/or associated RFP documents. All bidders must have access to the same information. These FCC competitive bid requirements are in addition to state and local competitive bidding requirements.

Applicants should follow all applicable state and local requirements. State and local requirements may add additional layers to the competitive bidding process and potentially extend competitive bidding timelines. Common state and local requirements that may be incorporated into an E-rate competitive bidding process are: governing board approval to solicit bids, annual bid thresholds, and award of contracts for technology/telecommunications related equipment, software and service utilizing other factors in addition to price. This is not a comprehensive list of California requirements, we encourage applicants to review their Board policies for bidding and contracts and/or seek legal counsel to ensure they are following all state and local procurement requirements.

While RFPs are optional in some circumstances, the following service functions do require RFPs under FCC rules: "Leased Dark Fiber and Leased Lit Fiber," "Self-Provisioned Network (Applicant Owned and Operated Network) and Services Provided Over Third-Party Networks," "Maintenance and Operations," "Network Equipment," "Cellular Data Plan/Air Card Service," and "Other."

Schools and Libraries Program Weekly News Briefs on E-rate 

The Schools and Libraries Program (SLP), commonly known as E-rate, provides timely information and insight through their Weekly News Brief. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to sign up to receive these communications by visiting the SLP's Web page at http://www.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/Default.aspx.