E-Rate News Flash 21-04

E-Rate
  Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Issue 21-04

April 14, 2021

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

New E-rate Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

In the American Rescue Act, recently enacted in March, Congress allocated $7.17 billion to create a new Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) to be administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). This funding is intended to reimburse schools and libraries for expenditures they have incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide broadband access to students, staff, and library patrons at locations other than a school or library. Eligible expenses may include:

  • Broadband service
  • Equipment such as WiFi hotspots, modems, and routers required to deliver broadband service
  • End user devices such as laptops and tablets

The FCC is currently developing the rules for this program and has initiated a public comment process. Final rules will likely be issued in early May and an application window opened by USAC in the summer. The FCC’s public notice may be viewed at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/fcc-seeks-comment-emergency-connectivity-fund-educational-devices-and-connections-address-homework.

FCC Issues List of Providers for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

As mentioned in our previous News Flash, the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program is a subsidy program to assist low-income households with paying for broadband service during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. Families with at least one child participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast programs qualify for this benefit. Any child enrolled in a Community Eligibility Program (CEP) school also automatically qualifies the household for this benefit. The FCC has released a list of participating service providers by state at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers#California. As a reminder, 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, please see https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit. It is anticipated that the program will officially launch to consumers at the end of April.

Funding Year 2021 E-rate Program Cap and Demand Estimate Issued

The FCC has announced the inflation-adjusted cap for the E-rate program for Funding Year 2021 which is $4.277 billion. This far exceeds the demand estimate for applications filed as of the close of the FCC Form 471 window, which USAC estimated to be $3.027 billion.

USAC Announces National Supply Chain Enforcement Activities

In its April, 2, 2020, Schools and Libraries News Brief, USAC announced new activities and requirements around the enforcement of the FCC’s rules that prohibit use of equipment and services provided by companies found to pose a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain. In addition to requiring new FCC Form 473 certifications of E-rate service providers, USAC provides information to schools regarding compliance with the FCC’s requirements and its intent to initiate audits over the summer. Please carefully review the News Brief to ensure your organization in in compliance with these requirements: https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=1001.

K12HSN Announces Spring E-rate Webinar Series

California’s K12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) is pleased to announce its Spring 2021 E-rate 'lunch and learn' noon-time webinar series. These webinars are focused on best practices for successfully navigating E-rate application reviews, audits, invoicing, and other important post-application window processes. K12HSN will also be hosting webinars to help schools navigate through the new E-rate Emergency Connectivity Fund program. To sign up, visit K12HSN’s E-rate resource website at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2021

For Funding Year 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 5,512 funding requests for $371 million. California applicants requested $229 million for Category 1 services and $142 million for Category 2 services.

Funding Year 2020

As of April 8, 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 9,081 funding requests for $371 million. To date, USAC has committed $314 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 04/08/2021

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

4,163

$234.1 M

3,854

93%

$211.5 M

90%

C2

4,918

$137.4 M

4,280

87%

$102.5 M

75%

Total

9,081

$371.5 M

8,134

90%

$314 M

85%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2019 as of 04/08/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,811

$246.1 M

3,560

93%

$222.3 M

90%

C2

4,385

$112.2 M

3,629

83%

$78.4 M

70%

Total

8,196

$358.3 M

7,189

88%

$300.7 M

84%

 

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.

Final Extended Invoice Deadline for Funding Year 2019 Recurring Services

Due to COVID-19, the FCC automatically extended the deadline for invoicing for FY 2019 recurring services to February 25, 2021.  Applicants and service providers that then requested and were approved for an additional single one-time 120-day extension now have a final invoice deadline of June 25, 2021. Any additional invoices filed after June 25, 2021, will not be accepted by USAC and will require an approved waiver from the FCC of the invoice deadline extension rule. Note that the FCC will only issue waivers of the invoice deadline for extraordinary circumstances.

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

 
 

1-32

05/09/2020-12/03/2020

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2020

 

33

12/10/2020

4/9/2021

 

34

12/17/2020

4/16/2021

 

35

12/23/2020

4/22/2021

 

36

12/31/2020

04/30/2021

 

37

01/07/2021

05/07/2021

 

38

01/14/2021

05/14/2021

 

39

01/21/2021

05/21/2021

 

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

 
 

1-79

04/27/2019-
12/9/2020

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

 

80

12/16/2020

4/15/2021

 

86

04/07/2021

08/05/2021

 

 

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.

Upcoming Training Events

Numerous training opportunities available for E-rate applicants are available or are coming soon.

Universal Services Administrative Company Recorded Resources

USAC has pre-recorded webinars and other materials available at its website at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/.

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

K12 High Speed Network E-rate Resources

Spring Webinar Series

K12HSN is currently hosting complimentary “E-rate Lunch and Learn” noon-hour webinars which focus on the E-rate process after the filing of FCC Form 471 as well as on the new Emergency Connectivity Fund. 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.

  • Submitting Corrections & Understanding and Responding to USAC's Reviews | April 15
  • Category 1 SPIN Changes & Service Substitutions | April 22
  • Category 2 SPIN Changes & Service Substitutions | May 13
  • The New E-rate Emergency Connectivity Fund: What You Need to Know | May 27
  • Funding Commitment, FCC Form 486, and Children's Internet Protection Act | June 3
  • Preparing for E-rate Audits and Understanding Audit Process | June 10
  • The New E-rate Emergency Connectivity Fund: Preparing for the Application Process | June 17
  • Category 1 E-rate Invoicing Best Practices June 24

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

Respond to Universal Service Administrative Company Program Integrity Assurance Review

All FCC Form 471 applications undergo Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review by USAC. In some instances, USAC reviewers may reach out 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, the eligibility of entities receiving services, and the data used to calculate the E-rate discount. While responses to USAC’s questions are submitted in the applicant’s E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal, the outreach from USAC will be sent to the Contact’s e-mail address. Applicants have an initial 15 days to respond to USAC’s request for information, and may request an automatic 7-day extension. Non-response to USAC’s questions may lead to delays in receipt of funding commitment decision letters or denials. If you are able, respond to USAC’s questions by the stated deadline or contact your USAC PIA reviewer to give USAC a status of when you may be able to respond to USAC's questions.

How are Applicants notified of PIA Inquiries?

The PIA reviewer will send an email to the FCC Form 471 Contact to let them know that the application is under review. The notification e-mail will include:

  • Today's date
  • Response due date
  • Contact name
  • Applicant name
  • FCC Form 471 application number
  • A brief description of the question or questions
  • Your PIA reviewer's name and telephone number

How do Applicants view and respond to PIA Inquiries?

The outreach e-mail will include a hyperlink to the application that will take applicants to the application Review Inquiries page of the associated FCC Form 471.

If applicants submitted more than one FCC Form 471 that requires PIA review, they will receive a separate set of questions for each form. Make sure to respond to all inquiries/questions on each FCC Form 471.

Applicants can perform the following actions from the Review Inquiries page by following the menu options on the top of the page:

  1. Respond to Inquiries
  2. Request an extension of time to respond
  3. Submit a modification request

When responding to inquiries, applicants will see two-page sub-menus: Pending Inquiries and Submitted Inquiries. Pending Inquiries will include the list of any pending inquiries, the read status, the outreach type, the reviewer’s name and contact information, the date the inquiry was issued, the date inquiry is due, and inquiry status. When selecting individual inquiries, applicants have the ability to view the individual question and upload supporting documentation. Please note: Only one user can work on an inquiry at a time. Users must Save and Close out of inquiries for other to access the inquiry. When applicants are satisfied with the drafted response and any supporting documentation, if any, they must click Submit to send the response to the inquiry. Submitted Inquiries are responses that have been submitted to the PIA reviewer.

How do Applicants request an extension of time to respond to PIA Inquiries?

Applicants may request more time to respond to PIA inquiries while they gather necessary information. When extension requests are submitted in EPC, applicants will automatically be granted the first request and will receive an additional seven days to respond. Applicants are encouraged to call or e-mail their assigned PIA reviewer if there are special circumstances that will necessitate additional time. If the PIA reviewer is unresponsive, open a customer service case in EPC, or call USAC at (888) 203-8100.

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, 2020, 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.