E-Rate News Flash 20-10

E-Rate
  Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Issue 20-10

June 16, 2020

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

Participate in Annual National E-rate Survey

An annual survey is being conducted which asks schools and libraries to contribute their opinions on and experiences with the E-rate application process. The survey results will be tabulated and shared with Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the public this summer. The survey is available at this link and is available through July 3, 2020: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/erate20.

E-rate applicants are encouraged to complete the survey to share their thoughts and experiences; all responses are confidential.

Federal Communications Commission Defers Changes to Form 470 Drop- Down Menu Options to Funding Year 2021

In October of 2019, the FCC released a Public Notice to request input from E-rate stakeholders on the current drop-down menu options of the FCC Form 470, a required form that is used by schools and libraries to facilitate the competitive bidding process for E-rate funded services. Stakeholders have commented on how the confusing language of the drop-down selections may put unwitting applicants at risk of losing program funding. On June 8, the FCC announced that it is deferring any changes to the FCC Form 470 to Funding Year 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) not to deny Funding Year 2020 applications due to applicants incorrectly selecting certain drop-down selections in their FCC Forms 470. The Public Notice, June 8 announcement, and the letter to USAC may be viewed at the FCC’s E-Rate - Schools & Libraries USF Program website under the Daily Releases section: https://www.fcc.gov/general/e-rate-schools-libraries-usf-program#block-menu-block-4.

Summer Deferral Period Begins for Program Integrity Assurance Review

USAC’s Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviewers are working diligently to keep the application review process moving quickly in an effort to fund as many applications as possible prior to September 1, 2020. It is important to be aware of the option to place the review of your FCC Form 471 on hold using the summer deferral option since we are now nearing the time of year when many schools will have limited personnel available.

Placing the FCC Form 471 on summer deferral will pause the review process until early September, when the review will begin again. If your organization will be closed for the summer and/or limited resources will be available to answer questions from USAC PIA reviewers, applicants must perform the following for each FCC Form 471 in order to activate the summer deferral option:

1. Navigate to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal and log in. The portal can be found at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/resources/e-rate-productivity-center/.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the “Landing Page” and look for the header “FCC Forms and Post Commitment Request.”

3. With Radio Button “FCC Forms” selected, proceed to select “FCC Form 471” under Form Type.

4. Select “2020” under Funding Year. This will generate a list of FCC Forms 471.

5. Select the desired form by clicking on the hyperlink found in the Application number. This will open the application and display a new menu across the top of the screen.

6. Select “Related Actions,” then select Apply Summer or Winter Deferral.

7. Repeat steps 1-6 for each FCC Form 471 for which you want to apply the summer deferral option.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of June 12, 2020, California applicants have successfully submitted 8,850 funding requests for $363 million. Of these requests, 45% are for Category One services, and 55% are for Category Two services. To date, USAC has issued commitments on 2,830 (32% of requested) funding requests and has committed $99.8 million (27.5% of requested) for California applicants.

Funding Year 2019

California applicants submitted 8,177 funding requests in FY2019 for over $358 million. To date, USAC has issued commitments for 7,815 of these requests for a total of $306 million.

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.

Funding Year 2018 Non-Recurring Services Extended Invoice Deadline

In general, the deadline for invoicing USAC for FY 2018 non-recurring services was January 28, 2020.  Applicants and service providers that requested and were approved for the single one-time 120-day extension now have an invoice deadline of May 27, 2020. Per the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Order, the FCC has now granted an additional 120-day extension to September 24, 2020. We encourage applicants, if they are able, to continue to try and meet invoice deadlines so as to not delay receipt of E-rate funding.

June 30 Special Construction Service Delivery Deadline

In general, the deadline to install services associated with a Category One special construction funding request is June 30 of the funding year, subject to a one-time one-year allowable extension. For 2019 special construction funding requests and 2018 special construction funding requests that qualified for the one-year extension, the FCC, in its COVID-19 Order, has granted an automatic additional year to install services with an extended service delivery deadline of June 30, 2021.

FCC Form 486 Filing Reminder

The FCC Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children's Internet Protection Act Certification Form) 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 two months.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

Extended COVID-19 Due Date*

 
 

1-32

04/27/2019-
11/07/2019

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

N/A

 

34

11/21/2019

3/20/2020

7/18/2020

 

35

11/27/2019

3/26/2020

7/24/2020

 

36

12/5/2019

4/3/2020

8/1/2020

 

37

12/12/2019

4/10/2020

8/8/2020

 

38

12/19/2019

4/17/2020

8/15/2020

 

39

12/27/2019

4/25/2020

8/23/2020

 

40

1/2/2020

5/1/2020

8/29/2020

 

* For FCC Form 486 deadlines that fall between March 11, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the FCC directed USAC to provide applicants with an additional 120 days to submit these forms without penalty.

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 two months.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

Extended COVID-19 Due Date*

 
 

1-68

04/20/2018-
11/04/2019

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2018

N/A

 

70

11/18/2019

3/17/2020

7/15/2020

 

71

11/25/2019

3/24/2020

7/22/2020

 

72

12/2/2019

3/31/2020

7/29/2020

 

73

12/9/2019

4/7/2020

8/5/2020

 

* For FCC Form 486 deadlines that fall between March 11, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the FCC directed USAC to provide applicants with an additional 120 days to submit these forms without penalty.

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 Resources

Applicants may access multiple recordings and other supporting material at the following websites.

USAC Webinars

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

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.

E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

PIA Review: Modification Notifications, Denial Notifications, and Incomplete Response Notifications

Generally, USAC will issue notifications to applicants if it intends to reduce or deny FCC Form 471 funding requests. The FCC Form 471 contact will receive outreach from a PIA reviewer with a notification of the reduction or denial and a link to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) where additional information may be available on the reason(s) for reduction or denial. It is very important to review and respond to these inquiries immediately because they do not allow for the typical 15-day response window experienced in PIA review. If USAC does not receive an immediate response, USAC can make the stated reductions or denials by issuing a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) in the next the FCC Form 471 weekly funding wave. It is important that applicants carefully review USAC’s notifications and provide additional information, documentation, and/or a rebuttal to USAC’s initial decision before the FCDL is issued. USAC may also issue an Incomplete Response notification if an applicant has not fully responded to USAC’s questions or if the reviewer does not understand the information submitted. This provides applicants an additional opportunity to provide information; a lack of response can lead to funding denial.

Applicants have reported that EPC will not allow them to upload responses to modification or denial notifications. Applicants experiencing this issue are advised to e-mail the PIA reviewer directly outside of EPC with the information needed and to also create a customer service case to document the EPC issue which prohibited the applicant from being able to submit its response in EPC. Applicants are also encouraged to proactively e-mail and call their PIA reviewers in any instance where they are unsure of what USAC is requesting or to help the reviewers understand information submitted.

Applicants who were unable to respond to USAC’s reduction or denial notifications, or whose rebuttals were not accepted by the USAC reviewer will receive USAC’s decision in the FCDL.

Review Your 2020 Funding Commitment Decision Letter

The purpose of the FCDL is to notify applicants and service providers which funding requests were approved, denied, or cancelled and how much funding was committed. The FCDL notification will arrive via email to the FCC Form 471 contact person, form certifier, and the general contact for the service provider. The email notification will include a PDF summary and a CSV file supporting the commitments and/or changes made by USAC during the review process. Additionally, the FCDL is accessible in the applicant’s “News” header in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and viewable by any user in the organization with viewing rights. FCDLs are issued by individual FCC Form 471.

Applicants are encouraged to review the FCDL as soon as they are issued. If an applicant does not agree with a commitment, denial, cancellation, and/or change that USAC has made to the application or any funding request, the applicant has 60 days from the date of the FCDL to file an appeal with USAC. Instructions on how to file an appeal are located at this website: https://www.usac.org/about/appeals-audits/appeals/.

When reviewing FCDLs, applicants should verify the application comments, committed amounts, monthly recurring and one-time costs, discount percentage, service provider information, and total number of funding requests. The PDF and CSV files provide summary information. If applicants are looking to verify corrections or changes to more detailed information such as: contract records, individual site enrollments, parent/child relationships, line item details and unit costs, quantities or recipient of services (ROS), the applicant will need to log in to EPC.

In EPC, the applicant may access individual modules from the main landing page by navigating to the “FCC Forms” section. From there, select “FCC Form 471” as the Category and “2020” as the Funding Year. A list of FCC Forms 471 will load for the applicant. Using the hyperlinks to individual FCC Forms 471, the applicant can navigate and view: Summary, Funding Requests, Discount Calculations, or Entity Information. Funding Request Number (FRN) line item details can be accessed by using the individual FRN hyperlinks and selecting each line item to view details.

Currently, under the Summary view for individual FCC Form 471, applicants may scroll to the bottom of the section to view “FCC Form 471 Generated Documents.” The “Original Version” of the FCC Form 471 can be downloaded in PDF form by selecting the hyperlink. USAC system updates will soon include a full PDF version of the “Committed Version” of the FCC Form 471 to help simplify and avoid having to view individual module information via multiple screens in EPC.

Summary of Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate Response to COVID-19

This section of the News Flash summarizes actions taken by the FCC in the E-rate program in response to COVID-19.

Waiver of Various E-rate Filing Deadlines

In recognition of the unprecedented impact on schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has waived and extended multiple E-rate deadlines as described below.

(1) Service delivery deadline for non-recurring: Any funding requests for non-recurring services with a September 30, 2020 deadline will receive an automatic extension to September 30, 2021. This primarily impacts the installation deadline for Category 2 Internal Connections and installation of Category 1 broadband services.

(2) Installation deadline of Category 1 special construction: The FCC requires that service is delivered and lit by June 30 of the funding year for funding requests that include one-time special construction of Category 1 broadband services, allowing for a single one-time, one-year extension request. The FCC has automatically extended the deadline for any special construction funding requests with a June 30, 2020 deadline to June 30, 2021.

(3) Appeal deadline: FCC rules require parties seeking review or waiver of a decision by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), either directed to USAC or the FCC, to submit their requests within 60 days from the date of the decision. This deadline has been extended to 120 days. This waiver will be in effect for parties seeking review or waiver of an adverse USAC decision with an appeal deadline between March 11, 2020 and September 30, 2020.

(4) Invoice filing deadline: The FCC will provide all applicants and service providers with an automatic 120-day extension of the invoice filing deadline for any funding request with an invoice deadline between March 11, 2020, and October 28, 2020.

(5) FCC Form 486 deadline: The FCC Form 486 deadline is 120 days from USAC’s issuance of the Funding Commitment Decision Letter, or 120 days from the start of service, whichever is later. For FCC Form 486 deadlines that fall between March 11, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the FCC directs USAC to provide these applicants with an additional 120 days to submit these forms without penalty.

(6) USAC review deadlines: The FCC also directs USAC to grant automatic 30-day extensions to the deadlines associated with USAC’s review of and outreach pertaining to the following forms and requests: FCC Form 471 Program Integrity Assurance (PIA), USAC appeals, invoices, FCC Form 500 requests, service substitutions, Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) changes, funding request cancellation requests, and program audits.

You may read the entire order addressing these extensions at the FCC’s website, https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-extends-key-e-rate-program-deadlines-due-covid-19-pandemic-0 and the Erratum further clarifying the deadlines at this website https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/041385109239.

Reminder to Schools that the Community May Access On-Campus WiFi When Schools are Closed

In 2010, the FCC lifted restrictions to enable for community use of E-rate funded broadband services on a school’s campus while school is not in session. On March 23, 2020, the FCC reiterated that allowing for community access of WiFi on a school’s campus while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is allowed under current program rules. However, the FCC declined to address allowing for the expansion of a school’s WiFi network beyond the school’s property line which is currently disallowed by E-rate program rules. You may read the entire public notice at the FCC’s website, https://www.fcc.gov/document/community-use-e-rate-supported-wi-fi-permitted-during-closures.

Waiver of E-rate Gift Rules

As mentioned in our previous News Flash, the FCC announced that it is temporarily waiving the E-rate gift rules through September 30, 2020. Due to the necessity for schools to acquire goods and services to meet increased broadband demand or to support connectivity to students at home while schools are closed, the FCC is waiving E-rate program gift rules to enable service providers to offer, and E-rate eligible schools to solicit or accept, broadband connections, devices, networking equipment, or other things of value that could help students and teachers affected by school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. You may read the entire order at the FCC’s website https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-acts-support-telehealth-remote-learning-during-coronavirus.