E-Rate News Flash 20-11

  Thursday, July 16, 2020

Issue 20-11

July 15, 2020

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

Federal Communications Commission to Fully Fund 2020 Applications

On July 6, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that there is sufficient funding to fund all eligible Funding Year (FY) 2020 applications for Category One and Category Two services. The FY 2020 funding cap is $4.23 billion with an additional $500 million in unused rollover funds from previous years. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) estimates the total demand for FY 2020 is $2.91 billion, which includes $1.74 billion for Category One services and $1.17 billion for Category Two services. More information may be found at the FCC’s E-rate website at https://www.fcc.gov/general/e-rate-schools-libraries-usf-program#block-menu-block-4 under the Daily Releases section.

U. S. House and Senate Broadband Proposals May Expand E-rate

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act proposed in the United States House and Senate may, if passed, afford additional funding and eligibility options for schools impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in the bill is a proposed $5 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning and authorization of funding for Wi-Fi on school buses. Progress of the bill may be monitored at this website: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7302.

USAC Announces Multifactor Authentication Requirements for E-rate Forms

E-rate applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new multifactor authentication (MFA) security measures. USAC will require MFA in order for applicants to be able to log in to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) software platforms effective later this month. MFA provides additional security by requiring a second form of user authentication such as a separate multi-digit code to be entered when logging in which is received by text or e-mail. In its July 10, 2020 News Brief, USAC describes the requirements and how to prepare for the implementation. You may review the News Brief at this website: https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=960.

Funding Year 2021 FCC Form 470 Available

The FCC Form 470 is now available in EPC for those applicants that wish to get a jump start on the competitive bidding process for the FY 2021 application cycle. The FCC Form 470 is a required form that initiates the mandatory 28-day competitive bidding process for any new contracts or services for which applicants will be seeking discounts on their FY 2021 funding requests. More information on filing the FCC Form 470 and filing best practices may be viewed at USAC’s website https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/competitive-bidding/ and K12 HSN’s website https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

Reminder that New Rules for Category Two are Effective Starting Funding Year 2021

In December of 2020, the FCC announced new rules that will impact Category Two services starting FY 2021 and forward. Category Two services enable the distribution of a broadband signal on a school’s campus, commonly known as “WiFi.”

  • Category Two budget allocations will reset for all applicants in FY 2021.
  • Budgets will be for a fixed five-year cycle starting in FY 2021 and ending in FY 2025 after which a new fixed cycle will begin in FY2026.
  • Budgets will be allocated and utilized on a districtwide basis and are no longer tied to specific schools.
  • The five-year fixed districtwide budget calculation will be the greater of $167 per student or $25,000 per school.
  • Equipment transfer rules will be eliminated for equipment purchased and installed under FY 2021 and forward.

Applicants may familiarize themselves with the new rules by reviewing webinars posted on USAC’s website at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/webinars/ and K12 HSN’s website at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of July 10, 2020, California applicants have successfully submitted 8,854 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 3,264 (37% of requested) funding requests and has committed $137.6 million (38% 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 7,832 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.

Requesting an Additional 30-Day Invoice Deadline Extension

If applicants or service providers are unable to meet the extended invoice deadlines granted by the COVID-19 Order, they may request an additional 30 days in which to invoice. Instructions for requesting this 30-day extension may be found in USAC’s June 26 News Brief: https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=959.

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

File FCC Form 486 for FY 2020 Services

Once a FCC Form 471 annual application for funding is successfully reviewed and approved by USAC, USAC will issue a funding commitment decision letter (FCDL) notifying the applicant of funding approval or denial of its FY 2020 funding requests. Upon receipt of a positive FCDL, applicants must file an FCC Form 486 in the E-rate Productivity Center to notify USAC that services have started for the funding year and to certify compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

IMPORTANT: The FCC Form 486 filing deadline is 120 days from the date of the issuance of the FCDL or the start date of E-rate eligible services, whichever is later. For most applicants with recurring services that start July 1 of the funding year and who receive their FCDL on or before July 1, the FCC Form 486 deadline is October 28. It is also important to note that USAC will not process invoices on any funding requests that do not have both a positive FCDL and a certified FCC Form 486. Therefore, in order to facilitate the receipt of approved E-rate funds, it is important for applicants to file their FCC Forms 486 in a timely manner.

USAC’s June 5, 2020, News Brief includes helpful FCC Form 486 filing tips:

  • Applicants should make note of checking the Early Filing box for any FCC Form 486s filed between now and July 31, 2020.
  • Ensure compliance with CIPA and Do Not check the “CIPA Waiver” box unless are you eligible for a CIPA waiver.
  • Select only relevant Funding Request Numbers (FRNs).
  • Applicants may file additional FCC Forms 486 for services that have not yet begun at a later date.
  • Correctly identify your Service Start Date (SSD).
  • For Category One and Category Two services that were installed before July 1, 2020 under Advance Installation rules, please note the SSD should default to July 1, 2020.
  • Review the FCC Form 486 carefully before certification. Incorrect information may delay the review and processing of your form.

Applicants new to the E-rate program are encouraged to review training videos posted by USAC at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/webinars/ and K12 HSN at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training which explain the purpose of the FCC Form 486 and outline the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act. USAC’s June 5 News Brief may be viewed here: https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=956.

Communicate Invoicing Preferences to Service Providers

USAC accepts two forms of invoicing on approved E-rate funding requests:

  1. FCC Form 474 Service Provider Invoice (SPI) - This method of invoicing consists of the service provider invoicing USAC for the approved E-rate discounted amount for services rendered and invoicing the applicant the net or ‘undiscounted’ amount after the E-rate reimbursement is applied. This is often reflected as a discount or credit on the service provider bill to the applicant.
  2. FCC Form 472 Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) invoice - This method requires that applicants pay for the full amount of services received after which they may claim direct reimbursement for the approved E-rate discount amount by filing the BEAR with USAC.

It is important to note that is the applicant’s choice of which invoicing method is to be used for its approved E-rate funding requests. The service provider may not dictate the invoicing method. However, the Form 474 SPI method is required for any broadband services that also receive the California Teleconnect Fund discount. More information on the California Teleconnect Fund and how it interrelates with E-rate may be viewed on the California Public Utilities Commission’s website at: https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/ctf/.

It is important for the applicant to communicate early each year with its service provider(s) its choice of invoicing method for each of its funding requests so that there are no misunderstandings. Once USAC has processed a SPI or BEAR invoice on a funding request it will not allow for a change in the invoicing method on that same funding request except for in extraordinary circumstances.

USAC will accept and process SPI and BEAR invoices under the following conditions:

  1. There is an approved FCC Form 471 funding request.
  2. There is a certified FCC Form 486 for the funding request.
  3. Services have been started.

Note, however, many service providers require additional forms to be completed before they will process a SPI with USAC. If you have met the three conditions above and have not received the anticipated E-rate discounts on your bill, contact your service provider to determine if there are additional steps required in order for them to post discounts on your bill.

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.