E-Rate News Flash 20-1

E-Rate
  Monday, January 6, 2020

Issue 20-1

January 6, 2020

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

  • Announcements
  • Funding Commitment Summary
  • Pending Dates and Deadlines
  • Upcoming Training Events
  • E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Announcements

FCC Form 471 Filing Window for Funding Year 2020

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) has announced the annual E-rate application FCC Form 471 filing window for Funding Year 2020. It will open at 9:00 AM PST on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, and close at 8:59 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. All applicants who are seeking E-rate funding for eligible services delivered between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, must file their annual FCC Form 471 funding requests in USAC’s E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) online portal by the March 25 deadline.

FCC Extends Category Two Test Program to Sixth Year with New Multipliers for Funding Year 2020

In its December 3, 2019, Category Two Order, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) extended its five-year test program for Category Two funding to add a sixth year for Funding Year 2020. This is intended to act as a bridge year until new rules go into effect for Funding Year 2021. Applicants are to approach their Funding Year 2020 Category Two budget calculations with a similar methodology as used in years 2015 through 2019. Specifically, they must use the Funding Year 2020 budget floor or per student multipliers to calculate a base budget allocation available for each school and then deduct any prior commitments from Funding Years 2015 through 2019. The base Funding Year 2020 allocations are as follows:

  • Schools with 61 or fewer full and part-time students: $11,998.43 budget floor
  • Schools with 62 or more full and part-time students: $195.63 per student

Currently, USAC’s Category Two Budget Tool has not been updated to reflect these new allocations. Applicants may perform their own manual calculations to estimate their remaining per-school budget(s) and monitor USAC’s website for updates to the Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Category 2 Budget Lookup Tool at https://sltools.universalservice.org/portal-external/budgetLookup/.

Permanent Category Two Program Effective Funding Year 2021

On December 3, the FCC also outlined the rules for a new permanent Category Two program effective for Funding Year 2021 and beyond. The FCC will be moving to a fixed five-year allocation established at the school district or Billed Entity level. Thus, budgets will no longer be tied for use at specific schools. For funding years 2021-2025, the FCC established a fixed five-year districtwide multiplier of $167 per full time student and a funding floor of $25,000. School districts with 11 or more schools may chose the higher of the $167 per student allocation or the $25,000 per school allocation. School districts with 10 or fewer schools may, by school, select the higher of the per student or per school allocation to develop the most advantageous overall districtwide budget. Highlights of the program changes are outlined in USAC’s December 20, Schools and Libraries News Brief https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=929 as well as in K12 HSN’s Category Two recorded webinars at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2019

USAC released FY2019 Wave 40 on January 2, 2020. Cumulative commitments for California applicants are $284.5 Million.

Category 1 Commitments to Date

$215.9 Million (88% of funding requested)

132 funding requests are pending for 32 applicants

Category 2 Commitments to Date

$68.6 Million (61% of funding requested)

744 FRNs funding requests are pending for 44 applicants

Pending Dates and Deadlines

E-rate deadlines may be viewed or calculated on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website at https://www.usac.org/sl/tools/deadlines/default.aspx.

January 28, 2020, Invoice Deadline

The deadline for invoicing of Funding Year 2018 non-recurring services is January 28, 2020. 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 needing additional time to invoice MUST submit the request for extension to USAC on or before the January 28, 2020, 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.

IMPORTANT: File Invoice Deadline Extension for Pending Post-Commitment Requests

If an Applicant has a pending post-commitment request that has yet to receive a decision from USAC for any funding requests that would have an invoice deadline of January 28, it MUST file an invoice deadline extension request by January 28, in order to be able to invoice USAC once the post commitment request has been approved by USAC. Typical post-commitment requests include:

  • Appeals
  • Service substitutions
  • Service provider changes, known as SPIN changes
  • Contract extensions

How to File an Invoice Deadline Extension Request

For Funding Years 2016 and later, use the Invoice Deadline Extension Request Tool in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). The process is described in the September 21, 2018, Schools and Libraries Program News Brief at https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=854.

For funding requests from Funding Years 2015 and prior, applicants may request the extension in the online BEAR system, by initiating a Customer Service Case initiated in EPC, or by calling the Client Service Bureau (CSB) at 888-203-8100. Service providers must request the extension via the CSB.

FCC Form 486 Filing Reminder

The FCC Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children's Internet Protection Act Certification Form) at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/starting-services/fcc-form-486-filing/ 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

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, 2019, the following deadlines have passed or are approaching in the next month.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

1-23

04/27/2019-09/05/2019

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2019

24

09/12/2019

01/10/2020

25

09/19/2019

01/17/2020

26

09/26/2019

01/24/2020

27

10/03/2019

01/31/2020

28

10/10/2019

02/07/2020

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

1-58

04/20/2018-06/13/2019

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2018

61

09/16/2019

01/14/2020

62

No California commitments

63

09/30/2019

01/28/2020

64

10/07/2019

02/04/2020

65

10/14/2019

02/11/2020

 

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 are coming soon.

USAC Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars and registration for upcoming webinars are posted on the USAC website at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/webinars/.

Category Two (C2) Budgets

Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Time: 11:00 AM PT

K12 High Speed Network E-rate Resources

Visit the K12 HSN website https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training to access the new E-Rate Training Roadmap and Resource Guide and supplemental training materials, including recordings of previous webinars like the recent webinars from December outlining changes in the Category Two program. Webinars geared to participants in the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) are also scheduled through January.

E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Competitive Bidding: Responding to Service Provider Questions

As of July 1, 2019, applicants have been able to post an FCC Form 470 for Funding Year 2019. The FCC Form 470 provides a Description of Services Requested and opens the minimum 28-day competitive bidding process. The competitive bidding process must identify the products and services an applicant is seeking so that potential service providers can review those requests and submit bids for them. Any additional documents, such as a request for proposal (RFP) must be uploaded onto the FCC Form 470 in the E-rate Productivity Center portal.

It is the applicant's responsibility to run an open and fair competitive bidding process.

  • All bidders must be treated the same.
  • No bidder can have advance knowledge or ‘insider’ information.
  • All questions received by the due date and due time must be answered.
  • All information must be shared with all potential bidders and all bidders must know what is required of them.

Applicants should be aware that answering questions that may change the original scope of services and/or requirements outlined in the Form 470 and/or RFP may require the restart of the 28-day competitive bidding period and in some cases may also require the posting of a new FCC Form 470.

Most often, a new FCC Form 470 is required when:

  • The original FCC Form 470 was certified without attaching any RFP documents, but you have now issued an RFP document and need to attach it.
  • You did not post services for a specific dropdown menu service type, and now realize that you need to post for services in that dropdown menu service type.

We caution applicants that if changes are significant, applicants must restart the 28-day clock. Applicants must count out the 28-days outside of EPC and extend due dates accordingly.

Competitive Bidding: Completing Bid Evaluations and Awarding Services

The FCC Form 470, associated RFP, if any, and all relevant information needed for a service provider to bid must be publicly available for a minimum 28-day period before applicants can close the competitive bidding process.

Evaluating Bids and What to Do if You Receive No Bids

After you close your competitive bidding process, you must evaluate the bids received and choose the bid that is the most cost-effective. You may consider factors in addition to the price of goods and services in your evaluation. FCC competitive bidding requirements specify that the price of the E-rate eligible products and services must be the primary factor and must be weighted more heavily than any other single factor in the evaluation. For examples and guidance on constructing a bid evaluation please see USAC’s “How to Construct a Bid Evaluation” guidance at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/selecting-service-providers/how-to-construct-an-evaluation/.

If you receive only one response to your competitive bidding process, the response must still comply with the cost-effective requirement. If you receive only one response and determine that it is cost-effective, you must document it. This may be documented with a memo or email to yourself and placed in your records.

If you do not receive any responses, you may solicit responses from service providers. If you currently receive service from a service provider, you can ask your current provider to submit information in response to your FCC Form 470. Again, you must document if no responses are received and if you continue services with your incumbent provider.

IMPORTANT: If your Form 470 had an associated RFP, please verify with your local rules that an award may be issued for any single response or no response scenario. In some cases, local rules may require that you restart your competitive process. All competitive bidding documentation, including winning and losing bids, bid evaluations, and contract documents must be retained for a minimum of 10 years from the last date to receive service or the end date of the contract, whichever is later.

Awarding Services

Applicants may award and receive services under tariff, month-to-month or contracted terms. Under tariff or month-to-month terms, services such as digital transmission service or Internet access may not require a contract. However, we remind applicants that they must post an FCC Form 470, open a competitive bidding process, wait 28 days, and evaluate responses for these services on an annual basis prior to filing the FCC Form 471. The contract award date reported on the Form 471 is the date that you select the service provider and should be documented in an evaluation matrix, e-mail, memo, or all of the above.

Services provided under a binding agreement, enforceable by law, between two or more parties for specific contracted terms with specific contracted rates are considered to be contracted services. If you posted an FCC Form 470 and signed a multi-year contract resulting from that posting, you may not have to post an FCC Form 470 or open a competitive bidding process for the remainder of the term of that contract. However, we caution applicants to check their contracts for any additions, increases, moves and/or changes to services that may require a posting of a new FCC Form 470.

Except for services to be delivered under tariffed or month-to-month arrangements, applicants must have a contract or other legally binding agreement in place with the service provider before certifying an FCC Form 471. A verbal agreement is not considered a legally binding agreement under program rules. For additional information on contracts, please see USAC’s “Contracts” section at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/selecting-service-providers/contracts/.