E-Rate News Flash 20-17

E-Rate
  Friday, November 13, 2020

Issue 20-17

November 13, 2020

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

Administrative Window is Now Open

As of October 19, 2020, 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. There are some changes in the school district and school profile sections in EPC for Funding Year 2021.

New! Category Two (C2) Budget Information

School districts will have a separate section on their profile pages for C2 budget information.

School District Student Counts Fulfill Two Purposes

  1. To calculate their E-rate discounts, school districts will report their student counts in the individual school profiles, similar to previous years’ Administrative Window updates.
  2. To calculate their C2 district-wide budgets, school districts will report their student counts in the C2 budget section of the school district profile by selecting the “Manage Organization” button. The E-rate Productivity Center will offer an option to report total full-time enrollment for the school district or to manage the full-time student counts by individual schools in the school district. Note that any school districts utilizing the budget floor for one or more of their schools must report full-time student count by school.

New! New School Entity Subtypes

USAC announced three new entity subtypes in its October 16, 2020, Schools and Libraries News Brief. School districts are asked to assign one or more entity classifications under each of their schools’ profiles in EPC.

General-Use School offers instruction to students drawn from other schools, and student counts can change throughout the year. Some examples of general-use schools are magnet schools, vocational schools, special education units, computer centers, or career centers.

Detention Center is treated in the same way as a juvenile justice facility. To be eligible for discounts, the state's law must include education for students in juvenile justice facilities within its definition of elementary and/or secondary education.

Swing Space temporarily houses students from a school which is considered the "main entity" or original location of the student population. The students may need to be temporarily relocated due to closure, construction, or a revamping of their technological infrastructure at the school. Note that a swing space is different than an annex. An annex is considered a part of the school it shares an entity number with rather than a temporary relocation site.

For a complete description of the new entity types please visit: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/resources/news-brief/

FCC Provides Additional Guidance for Category 2 Budgets Effective Funding Year 2021

On October 14, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice (DA 20-1218) providing additional guidance on various Category 2 (C2) budget issues, including those that will impact the new district-wide/system-wide budgets effective Funding Year 2021 (FY2021) and beyond.

          Independent Schools with Part-Time Students Only

Beginning with FY2021, school districts must only count each full-time student one time when calculating their district-wide C2 budgets. However, independent schools that are attended by students from multiple districts on a part-time basis only can continue to count these students as full-time students.

School Buildings that Are Fully or Partially Closed Due to COVID-19

Students enrolled at brick-and-mortar schools can be counted as full-time students regardless of whether they receive some or all instruction via distance/remote learning during school closures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cost Allocation for the Use of Shared Equipment by Non-Instructional Facilities (NIFs)

Applicants must cost-allocate their funding requests and remove the costs associated with any use of shared network equipment by a non-instructional facility. NIFs are not eligible to receive Category 2 services and/or funding.

 

Utilizing Funding Year 2020 Enrollment for FY2021

Recognizing that student enrollment at schools has been impacted by COVID-19, and FY2021 being the first year of the new five-year budget cycle under the new rules, USAC will permit applicants to utilize their full-time enrollment numbers from their FY2020 FCC Form 471 applications for FY2021. The FY2020 numbers are pre-populated in the C2 budget forecasts and will not change unless the school district overwrites these numbers with new data during the Administrative Window.

Charter Schools

Beginning with FY2021, if a state law considers a charter school to be part of a school district, the charter school will be presumed to be part of the school district unless it demonstrates financial and administrative independence from the district. If financially and administratively independent, the Charter School or Charter Organization will have its own C2 budget and discount rate.

You may read the entire order addressing these clarifications at the FCC’s website under Daily Releases, https://www.fcc.gov/general/e-rate-schools-libraries-usf-program

USAC has also provided additional information in their most recent October 16, 2020 News Briefs, for a complete description please visit: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/resources/news-brief/.

Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) Review for the FY2020 Second Application Filing Window

USAC reviewers are in the process of issuing outreach to the contact person listed on the FCC Form 471 to ask questions about the application and/or request documentation to substantiate the eligibility of services, substantiate the increases in bandwidth and increases in costs due to COVID-19, and to verify the eligibility of entities receiving services and/or data used to calculate the E-rate discount. Applicants have 15 days to respond to USAC’s request for information, and may request an additional 7-day or 30-day extension. While responses to USAC’s questions occur in EPC, the outreach from USAC will be sent to the contact’s e-mail address. Failure to respond to USAC’s questions may lead to the denial of the FCC Form 471 funding requests; make sure to respond by the deadline indicated or request an extension if needed. The 30-day extensions must be requested by the applicant with an explanation of their inability to respond due to school closures, lack of resources, or other challenges due to COVID-19

Updated Invoice Decision Codes for Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Forms

USAC has updated the Invoice Decision Codes on BEAR Notification Letters that are mailed to both applicants and service providers and on electronic Service Provider Invoice (SPI) remittance statements sent to service providers.  The updated explanations include plain language decision explanations to better describe erroneous or improperly formatted invoice line item(s).

For a complete description of Invoice Decision Codes and to obtain a copy of the updated Invoice Decision Code Table in Portable Document Format (PDF) please visit USAC’s website: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/invoicing/invoice-decision-codes/.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of November 9, 2020, California applicants have successfully submitted 9,022 funding requests for $371 million. To date, USAC has committed $227 million for California applicants. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the second FCC Form 471 filing window, USAC has pushed back its deadline to complete the processing of workable applications to December 31, 2020.

Pace of Commitments

The overall pace of commitments in terms of funding committed versus requested for California applicants in FY 2020 lags versus same period in the previous year.

 

 

FY 2020 Status  as of 11/9/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

4,126

$233.9 M

3,376

82%

$185.3 M

79%

C2

4,899

$137.4 M

2,645

54%

$56.6 M

41%

Total

9.025

$371.3 M

6,021

67%

$241.9 M

65%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2019 as of 11/9/2019

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,803

$246.1 M

3,266

86%

$200.1 M

81%

C2

4,385

$112.2 M

3,040

69%

$58.6 M

52%

Total

8,188

$358.3 M

6,306

77%

$258.7 M

72%

 

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.

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 2020

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. The First FCC Form 486 deadline for FY 2020 is October 28, 2020 for funding waves 1-8 with services starting July 1, 2020.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

 
 

1-8

05/09/2020-06/25/2020

10/28/2020

 

9

7/2/2020

10/30/2020

 

10

7/9/2020

11/6/2020

 

11

7/16/2020

11/13/2020

 

12

7/23/2020

11/20/2020

 

13

7/30/2020

11/27/2020

 

Funding Year 2019

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*

 
 

1-46

04/27/2019-
1/30/2020

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

N/A

 

48

2/27/2020

6/26/2020

10/24/2020

 

49

3/5/2020

7/3/2020

10/31/2020

 

50

3/12/2020

7/10/2020

11/7/2020

 

51

No CA Commitments

 

52

3/26/2020

7/24/2020

11/21/2020

 

* 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 Fall 2020 Trainings – Recordings Now Available

On November 4-6, 2020, USAC held its annual training events virtually. Sessions included 30 minutes of content and 30 minutes of question and answers. Topics covered included the following:

  • 2020 Training Kickoff Event
  • E-rate Program Overview
  • E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) Demo
  • E-rate Pre-Commitment Process
  • Category Two Budgets
  • E-rate Office Hour and Demo: FY2021+ Category Two Budget Tool
  • E-rate Post-Commitment Process
  • EPC Administrative Window
  • Eligible Services

To watch the recordings and download the presentation videos, please visit USAC’s website at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/webinars/

State Educational Technology Directors Association Ask the State Experts E-rate Training Series

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), a non-profit membership association that supports U.S. state and territorial leaders in advancing education through effective digital learning policy and practice, has announced a new E-rate training series “Ask the State Experts.” These virtual trainings are designed to support the applications and implementation of the E-rate program for school, district, and library leaders, and will further support the processes, rules, and strategies for applicants to be successful in maximizing the available reimbursements for Funding Year 2021. Sessions include the following:

Fall Series Schedule:

October 22 – 2:00 pm ET  – Welcome, E-rate overview, resources, & getting organized

October 22 – 3:45 pm ET – The EPC Portal and the Administrative Window

November 12 – 2:00 pm ET – C1 Procurement and the Form 470

November 12 – 3:45 pm ET – C2 Procurement and the Form 470

December 3 – 2:00 pm ET – Bid Evaluation and Vendor Selection/Interaction

December 3 – 3:45 pm ET – Contracts

Winter Series Schedule:

January 7 – 2:00 pm ET – Form 471 Category 2

January 7 – 3:45 pm – Form 471 Category 1

February 11 – 2:00 pm ET – Changes: RAL, Service Substitutions, SPIN Changes

February 11 – 3:45 pm – Questions and Review, PIA interaction, Audits

April 1 – 2:00 pm ET – Post Commitment, Document Retention, Appeals

April 1 – 3:45 pm – Forms 486 & 472

Please visit this website for more information on the series: https://www.setda.org/events/webinars/eratetraining/.

K12 High Speed Network E-rate Resources

Fall Webinar Series

K12HSN is currently hosting complimentary “E-rate Lunch and Learn” webinars for both Category 1 and Category 2 services. These webinars will include tips and best practices geared specifically to California schools. Registration may be completed at the following link: https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

Category 1 Webinar Series

Webinar Topic

Previous Recording Link or Upcoming Date

Category 1 Eligible Services

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4711224116849801997

Form 470 and Competitive Bidding

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1521496904356119823

Category 1 Advanced Topics: Off-Campus Use E-rate Guidelines

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3698395787068917004

Planning for Transition of Services

Thursday, December 3 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT

Evaluating Bids and Contracting

Thursday, December 10 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT

Category 2 Webinar Series

Webinar Topic

Previous Recording Link or Upcoming Date

Changes Effective FY2021

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1518772314524910348

Category 2 Eligible Services

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/208494203461333004

Form 470 and Competitive Bidding

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7969851126576385806

Evaluating Bids and Contracting

Thursday, January 14, 2021 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT

General E-rate Topics

Webinar Topic

Upcoming Date

Maximizing Discounts & Category 2 Budgets: Administrative Window Best Practices

New Date!

Thursday, November 12 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT

 

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

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

FCC competitive bidding requirements stipulate that an eligible school, library, or consortium applicant 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 prepare bids, 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 E-rate rules. However, it 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 FCC 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 Disposal or Trade-In of equipment rules: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/before-youre-done/disposal-or-trade-in-of-equipment/

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 respond with a bid. 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 will evaluate bids using the price for E-rate eligible services as the primary factor. The competitive bidding 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 bidding 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 local 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 and use of such are at the discretion of the applicant in conjunction with state and local rules, the following service functions do require RFPs under FCC rules: “Leased Dark Fiber and Leased Lit Fiber,” “Self-Provisioned Network and Services Provided Over Third-Party Networks,” “Maintenance and Operations,” “Network Equipment,” “Cellular Data Plan/Air Chard Service,” and “Other.”

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. After September

Extension for USAC review deadlines: The FCC has directed the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to grant 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 issued between September 11, 2020 through December 31, 2020. The 30-day extensions must be requested by the applicant with an explanation of their inability to respond due to school closures, lack of resources or other challenges due to COVID-19.

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. You may read a copy of the extension order at the FCC’s website https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1021A1.pdf.

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.

Extension: The FCC announced the extension of its waiver of the E-rate gift rules due to COVID-19 from September 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020. As a reminder, this waiver is limited strictly to the offering and acceptance of broadband connections, devices, networking equipment, or other things of value that could help students and teachers affected by school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are expected to continue to follow the FCC’s competitive bidding requirements for the 2021/22 funding year and to not allow the acceptance of gifts to compromise their adherence to the rules of the E-rate program.

You may read the entire order at the FCC’s website https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-acts-support-telehealth-remote-learning-during-coronavirus. You may read a copy of the extension order at the FCC’s website https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1021A1.pdf.