E-Rate News Flash 21-03

E-Rate
  Monday, March 15, 2021

Issue 21-03

March 15, 2021

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

Reminder: FCC Form 471 Filing Deadline for Funding Year 2021 is March 25

The FCC Form 471 filing deadline for Funding Year 2021 closes on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 8:59 p.m. PDT. All applicants who are seeking E-rate funding for eligible services delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, must file their annual FCC Form 471 funding requests in USAC’s E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) online portal by the March 25 deadline.

California FY2021 FCC Form 471 Funding Request Number (FRN) Status

As of March 8, 2021, 878 FCC Forms 471 have been certified with an associated 1,395 individual funding requests. Approximately 46% of funding requests filed for California applicants are in Application Wave Ready or Final Review status.

As mentioned in our previous News Flash, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is actively reviewing these applications now in Program Integrity Assurance Review (PIA). Applicants have 15 days to respond to USAC’s questions. Questions are submitted to the FCC Form 471 contact via e-mail and must be responded to in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) by the 15-day deadline. Applicants may request a seven-day extension in order to respond to USAC’s request for information.

It is important to monitor PIA review status, as failure to respond may result in funding denial. Applicants with 15-day Expired Notifications, will receive individual outreach from the California State E-rate Support Team.

FCC Seeks Community Outreach Partners for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program, created by Congress for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a subsidy program to assist low-income households with paying for broadband service during the pandemic. Structured similarly to the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline Program, EBB will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household and is administered through broadband service providers that choose to participate in the program. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently accepting applications from broadband service providers that do not currently participate in Lifeline and wish to offer EBB-subsidized low-cost service to qualifying households. Service provider applications are due March 22, and may be submitted at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-program. The FCC is also seeking community outreach partners to assist the FCC in connecting low-income households to the broadband providers that are offering the EBB benefit. Outreach partners may register at the FCC website: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit. It is anticipated that the program will officially launch to consumers at the end of April.

Pending COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Includes Additional Funding to Support Remote Learning through the E-rate Program

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which has recently passed both the House and Senate, includes approximately $7 Billion to support an Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) through the E-rate program to reimburse schools that have purchased broadband services and devices to facilitate remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the final bill has not yet been signed into law, the initial framework states that the fund is to be used to reimburse eligible school and libraries for up to 100% of the costs for broadband services, devices such as laptops and tablets, and other equipment necessary to facilitate remote learning. Once enacted, the FCC has 60 days to develop the rules for distribution of this funding and it is anticipated that the FCC will provide a public comment period for stakeholders to comment on how the funds are to be administered. More information will be provided in an upcoming News Flash.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of March 8, 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 9,068 funding requests for $371 million. To date, USAC has committed $307 million for California applicants.

Pace of Commitments

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

 

 

FY 2020 Status  as of 03/08/2021

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

4,152

$234.1 M

3,836

92%

$211.5 M

90%

C2

4,916

$137.4 M

4,238

86%

$95.2 M

69%

Total

9.068

$371.5 M

8,074

89%

$306.7 M

83%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2019 as of 03/08/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,810

$246.1 M

3,561

93%

$222.3 M

90%

C2

4,385

$112.2 M

3,528

80%

$73.9 M

66%

Total

8,195

$358.3 M

7,089

87%

$296.2 M

83%

 

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.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

 
 

1-28

05/09/2020-11/05/2020

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2020

 

29

11/12/2020

3/12/2021

 

30

11/19/2020

3/19/2021

 

31

11/25/2020

3/25/2021

 

32

12/3/2020

4/2/2021

 

33

12/10/2020

4/9/2021

 

34

12/17/2020

4/16/2021

 

35

12/23/2020

4/22/2021

 

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

 
 

1-78

04/27/2019-
10/21/2020

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

 

79

12/9/2020

4/8/2021

 

80

12/16/2020

4/15/2021

 

 

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

During the FY2021 application filing window, USAC will conduct a series of office hour webinars which will focus on E-rate topics related to FCC Forms 470 and 471. For January and February, USAC has scheduled three Beginner/Intermediate: Eligible Services, FCC Form 470 and Competitive Bidding, and Service Provider Selection and FCC Form 471 webinars. For January, USAC has scheduled one Advanced: Eligible Services webinar. Registration for upcoming webinars and recordings of previous webinars are posted on the USAC 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:

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

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1282034268783280908

Evaluating Bids and Contracting

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6117258696973294861

Completing FCC Form 471

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7915623215419270159

SPIN Changes & Service Substitutions

Thursday, April 22, 2021 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

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

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6529012608181674252

Completing FCC Form 471

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/198606298028886030

SPIN Changes & Service Substitutions

Thursday, May 13, 2021 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

General E-rate Topics

Webinar Topic

Previous Recording Link

Maximizing Discounts & Category 2 Budgets: Administrative Window Best Practices

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2987095327111992077

Submitting Corrections & Understanding and Responding to USAC’s Reviews

Thursday, April 8, 2021 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

Funding Commitment, FCC Form 486, and Children’s Internet Protection Act

Thursday, May 27, 2021 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

Preparing for E-rate Audits and Understanding Audit Process

Thursday, June 10, 2021 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

 

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

Reviewing FCC Form 471 Applications for Errors and Submitting Corrections

Applicants should review Certified FCC Forms 471 for accuracy and submit corrections where needed. Applicants may do this by reviewing the live FCC Form 471 in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) or by reviewing the PDF version of the original application. From your Billed Entity’s home page in EPC, select the FCC Forms menu to access the Funding Year 2021 certified forms. Each form filed will have a hyperlink taking you to the live form that you may click through to verify information, and which also has a PDF link to the original form which you may download.

Common corrections include but are not limited to:

  • Incorrect Entity Information
    • School Districts: Review the contact information for your school district and each of your individual schools. For each school in your district, review the actual or estimated student counts; the approved Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) percentage, if you have one; the urban/rural status; and the attributes (such as public, private, or tribal).
    • Independent Schools: Review the contact information for your entity and also your entity information necessary for the discount and Category 2 budget calculations as noted above.
    • Consortia: Although you cannot change profile information for your members, you should review your own contact information and the list of consortium members you reported as receiving or sharing services on each FCC Form 471. You can also provide any other information that may be necessary for USAC to correctly process your application.
  • Incorrect Form 470 Cited on a Funding Request: The FCC Form 470 cited must support the services requested on the funding request.
  • Incorrect Contract Records Cited on a Funding Request: Contract records cannot be edited once they are submitted in EPC. If an error is found in any contract record, applicants must create and submit a new contract record in EPC and ask that the FRN be linked to the correct record.
  • Incorrect Services, Equipment and Installation Costs: Applications should verify the pre-discount costs and quantities listed in the funding request line items. Costs should be supported by the information in the contract(s), vendor bills, vendor quotes or other documentation you used to prepare your form.

For more information on corrections, please review USAC’s web page addressing Ministerial and Clerical errors here https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/competitive-bidding/ministerial-clerical-errors/. If you do identify an error, you may submit a request for correction through the Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL) Correction process. Note that RAL corrections may be submitted to USAC up until a Funding Commitment Decision Letter is issued on the FCC Form 471 application.

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.

Extensions: The FCC extended the gift rules waiver twice. The first extension was to December 31, 2021, and the second to June 30, 2021. 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 orders at the FCC’s website https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1021A1.pdf and https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1479A1.pdf.