E-Rate News Flash 20-12

E-Rate
  Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Issue 20-12

August 12, 2020

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

Federal Communications Commission Requests Comment on Funding Year 2021 Eligible Services List

On July 21, 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released for public comment the Funding Year (FY) 2021 draft Eligible Services List (ESL). In terms of specific services eligible for E-rate support, there are no changes from the FY 2020 ESL. However, the Commission did include the recently codified requirement from the 2019 Protecting Against National Security Threats Order: E-rate funds may not be used to purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support equipment or services produced or provided by any covered companies designated by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB), as well as their parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries. This restriction currently applies to Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation. 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. The deadline to file comments is August 20, 2020, and to file reply comments is September 4, 2020.

Filing Comments with the FCC

Schools and school districts are encouraged to submit comments on open proceedings at the FCC, such as the draft ESL, or to support comments filed by others. In 2019, the FCC received multiple requests to add cybersecurity services to the ESL under Category Two. While the FCC declined at the time, it expressed interest in learning more about what network security features and products should be considered to be eligible in the future under Category Two.

You may file public comments in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/. At the top of the screen select “Submit a Filing.” You may then either choose to submit a Standard Filing or an Express Comment. The Standard Filing is selected when you wish to include attachments, such as a letter on letterhead, or have extensive text. Express Comment is suitable for shorter comments or brief statements. You must complete only the required fields and may leave the non-required fields blank. The proceeding numbers for the E-rate program to cite on your comments are 02-6 and 13-184. All comments and documents are posted for public view in ECFS under the “Search for Filings” menu.

National Groups Request Extension of Gift Rules Waiver and Other FCC Support to Assist Schools in Their Continued Response to COVID-19

Due to the ongoing need for schools to maintain distance learning due to COVID-19 as they re-open for the 2020/21 school year, multiple groups have advocated to the FCC to continue to waive the E-rate gift rules through June 30, 2021. On August 4, 2020, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) jointly submitted a request to support the extension of this waiver. In its August 3, 2020, letter to the Commission, the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance (SECA) also supported the extension of the gift rules waiver and further requested the FCC to allow for schools to request additional funding for Funding Year 2020 should they need to immediately increase their on-campus Internet Access to support the high bandwidth demands of implementing distance learning, such as high resolution video instruction from the classroom. You may download the CoSN, SHLB, and SETDA joint letter at this website https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/10804721030535 and the SECA letter at this website https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/10803249666167.

Complete Survey and/or File Comments in Support of Requests

Data is being collected to identify the scope of the need for immediate upgrades to Internet bandwidth due to distance learning. If your school or school district is affected, please consider completing the survey at this website https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/moreinternet as well as filing comments with the FCC in support of the letter filed by SECA.

Should the FCC agree to these requests, details will be provided in a future edition of the E-rate News Flash.

Universal Service Administrative Company Continues Implementation of New Multifactor Authentication Requirements for E-rate Forms

Effective July 27, 2020, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) implemented new multifactor authentication (MFA) security measures for applicants logging in to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) software platforms. Reports from the field indicate that the roll-out of the MFA measures have caused some applicants difficulty in being able to successfully access these platforms. Any applicant experiencing such difficulties should immediately call USAC’s customer service team at (888) 203-8100 as USAC is placing a high priority on resolving these accessibility issues.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of August 5, 2020, California applicants have successfully submitted 8,856 funding requests for $363 million. To date, USAC has committed $159 million for California applicants. In its July 2020 Board meeting, USAC indicated that due to the extension of the FY 2020 FCC Form 471 filing deadline its target for processing all workable applications has been pushed from September 1, 2020 to October 1, 2020.

Pace of Commitments

The overall pace of commitments in terms of funding committed versus requested for California applicants in FY 2020 is slightly higher than it was as of the same period in the previous year. While the commitments of Category Two (C2) funding are slightly less than those at the same time last year, the pace of funds committed versus those requested for Category One (C1) funding is higher year-to-date in FY 2020 versus FY 2019.

 

 

FY 2020 Status  as of 8/5/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,962

$225.6 M

2,623

66%

$142.4 M

63%

C2

4,894

$137.4 M

889

18%

$16.5 M

12%

Total

8,856

$363.0 M

3,512

40%

$158.9 M

44%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2019 as of 8/5/2019

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,740

$246.1 M

2,753

74%

$124.2 M

51%

C2

4,358

$112.2 M

1,041

24%

$16.8 M

15%

Total

8,098

$358.3 M

3,794

47%

$140.9 M

39%

 

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*

 
 

1-36

04/27/2019-
12/05/2019

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

N/A

 

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

 

41

1/9/2020

5/8/2020

9/5/2020

 

42

1/16/2020

5/15/2020

9/12/2020

 

43

1/23/2020

5/22/2020

9/19/2020

 

* 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*

 
 

1-73

04/20/2018-
12/09/2019

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2018

N/A

 

74-77

No California approvals

 

78

1/13/2020

5/12/2020

9/9/2020

 

* 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/.

USAC Fall Trainings

In its July 2020 Schools and Libraries Committee board meeting, USAC announced that it would not conduct any face-to-face training events this Fall as is typically the case. USAC indicated that Fall training events would be replaced by live virtual training events, topic-focused office hour webinars, and E-learning modules and videos. More information will be included in the News Flash as the details become available.

K12 High Speed Network E-rate Resources

Visit the K12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) website https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training to access the E-Rate Training Roadmap and Resource Guide and supplemental training materials including recordings of previous webinars.

K12HSN E-rate Support Survey

The K12HSN E-rate support team would like your feedback regarding the E-rate training tools and resources made available on the K12HSN website. The survey will help determine priorities for outreach and training opportunities for the FY 2021 E-rate cycle. You may access the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GTZWHLV.

E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Collect and Document Bills for FY 2019 Recurring Services

The deadline to invoice USAC for approved funding for recurring services is typically 120 days from the end of the funding year and is applicable to both the Service Provider Invoice (SPI) and Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) invoicing methods. For FY 2019, which ended on June 30, 2020, this deadline has been automatically extended due to COVID-19 to February 25, 2021. However, schools should get into the practice of reviewing their bills for recurring services both periodically during the funding year and after the close of the funding year to determine if they have received their proper E-rate discounts and creating a plan of action if the anticipated discounts have not been received.

The FCC Form 472 (BEAR) is filed after eligible services have been both received and paid for by the applicant. Determining the E-rate eligible costs is accomplished by compiling the bills for the approved services on your FCC Form 471. Arriving at the total eligible costs will require a calculation that is based on the monthly bills for services received during the period of July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. By identifying the eligible services on the bills and deducting the costs for any ineligible services you will arrive at the amount to request reimbursements for on the BEAR.

The FCC Form 474 (SPI) is filed by the Service Provider after the eligible discounts have been applied to the applicant’s bills. The process of collecting the bills and calculating the total eligible costs is still necessary for the SPI method in order to confirm that the correct amount of E-rate discounts were applied to the bills. If you have received no discounts on your bills or the discounts received do not appear to be correct, now is the time to contact your service providers to allow enough time for them to make any corrections to the discounts before the invoice deadline has expired.

Remember to retain all bills and calculations to support your E-rate discount requests for a minimum of 10 years from the end of the funding year. For FY 2019 the required documentation retention period is through June 30, 2030.

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.