E-Rate News Flash 21-14

E-Rate
  Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Issue 21-14

December 15, 2021

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

  • Announcements
  • Funding Commitment Summary
  • Pending Dates and Deadlines
  • E-rate and Emergency Connectivity Fund Training Resources
  • E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Announcements

FCC Clarifies Emergency Connectivity Fund Invoice Deadline

On December 2, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) normalized the invoice deadline for all Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) funding requests filed in the first and second application windows. The effective deadline for submission of invoices to USAC is the later of the following: August 29, 2022, or (less common), 60 days from the issuance of a Funding Commitment Decision Letter or Revised Funding Commitment Decision Letter approving a post-commitment change or appeal. Schools are encouraged to sign up for USAC’s ECF newsletter for timely updates and information at https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6296809/emergency-connectivity-fund/.

USAC Issues Guidelines for Enrollment and National School Lunch Program Data for Purpose of Calculating Funding Year 2022 E-rate Discounts and Category 2 Budgets

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will allow E-rate applicants to use enrollment and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility data from previously approved Funding Year (FY) 2020 or 2021 applications for the purpose of their FY 2022 applications. This means that participating school applicants need not update their school profile information if their E-rate discount and/or Category 2 budget was approved by USAC for FY 2020 or 2021. While some school applicants may decide to allow for their previously-approved E-rate discount and Category 2 budget data to be used for FY 2022, others may choose to update their data in USAC’s system during the Administrative Window which will be open through early January. Should your organization choose to update its data, please review the section E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now below for further guidance and information.

FCC Votes to Adopt a Mandatory Bidding Portal for E-rate Program

During its December 14, 2021, Open Commission Meeting, the FCC voted to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which, if enacted, would require a mandatory bidding portal for all E-rate participants. The proposed rules would require that all applicant and service provider activities related to competitive bidding for the E-rate program be facilitated through a USAC-managed portal including, but not limited to, bid submissions and communications during the competitive bidding process, and would prohibit any such activities outside of the portal. The proposal would also require that applicants upload contracts, bid evaluation documents, and any meeting minutes related to the contracting process at the time the applicant certifies its FCC Form 471 application. The FCC will likely issue the NPRM in the coming weeks to allow for stakeholders to comment on this proposed portal and other modifications to the E-rate competitive bidding rules. You may view the proposal and initial comments filed under FCC docket number 21-455 at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=21-455&sort=date_disseminated,DESC.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to Transition to Longer-Term Affordable Connectivity Program

On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which created a $14.2 Billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) intended to succeed the temporary COVID-19 Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program). Both the ACP and the EBB Program are consumer-focused programs that provide monthly broadband subsidies to qualifying low-income households through their broadband service providers and intend to either fully off-set the cost of the broadband service for the households, or to lower the monthly cost to affordable levels. The FCC provides oversight to both the ACP and the EBB, and is currently requesting public comment on proposed rules for the ACP which will replace the EBB over a 60-day transition period commencing December 31, 2021. You may view the proposed rules for the ACP at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/fcc-seeks-comment-modifying-and-extending-broadband-affordability-program and view comments filed under FCC docket number 21-450 at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=21-450&sort=date_disseminated,DESC.

FCC Issues Advisory on Fraudulent Enrollments under EBB Program

On November 22, 2021, the FCC’s Office of Inspector General issued an advisory regarding improper EBB program enrollments where service providers’ sales agents enrolled households by erroneously claiming household dependents attended schools which offer the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). As a result, USAC will require documentation upon enrollment to demonstrate the household dependent(s) are enrolled in a CEP school. Examples of acceptable documentation include a letter from the school or school district or a report card that provides the information listed below:

  • The benefit qualifying person’s name
  • Name of the school or of the school district
  • A date that coincides with the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year

You may view the advisory at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-378076A1.pdf.

K12HSN Kicks Off Winter E-rate Lunch and Learn Events

The K12HSN will be holding multiple webinars and office hours in the next few months to help schools prepare for the annual E-rate application window which will likely open in January and close in March of 2022. These webinars and office hours are free to attend and are tailored specifically for California schools. You may register for the events by clicking the links below, or by visiting K12HSN’s website at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

Office Hour: Preparing for E-rate Filing Window, January 12, 2022 Noon

Register at https://icoe.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_mclkwjvxRIi71CA6kYQNow

Webinar: Filing FCC Form 471 for Category 1 Services, January 26, 2022 Noon

Register at https://icoe.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WRD9MP8RR5usryZ0q2kk4w

Webinar: Filing FCC Form 471 for Category 2 Services, February 2, 2022 Noon

Register at https://icoe.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_sMcoF7b-Q1SDOblXebTCRg

Office Hour: E-rate Filing Window Best Practices, February 16, 2022 Noon

Register at https://icoe.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gGVUIcIDRxC1TV12wIJPGQ

Office Hour: E-rate Filing Window Last Minute Tips and Preparing for Application Review, March 2, 2022 Noon

Register at https://icoe.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Pz-OAzf5Qa6IbVbr-Sdsag

California Funding Commitment Summary

Emergency Connectivity Fund

In the Emergency Connectivity Fund first and second application windows, California applicants requested over $923 million in funding. To date, USAC has issued $260 million in commitments for California applicants.

E-rate Funding Year 2021

For Funding Year 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 5,632 funding requests for $375 million. California applicants requested $231 million for Category 1 services and $144 million for Category 2 services. To date, USAC has committed $299 million for California applicants.

Pace of Commitments

The overall pace of commitments in terms of funding committed versus requested for California applicants in FY 2021 exceeds the same period in the previous year.

 

 

FY 2021 Status  as of 12/13/2021

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,748

$231.0 M

3,451

92%

$204.1 M

88%

C2

1,884

$144.0 M

1,392

74%

$94.4 M

66%

Total

5,632

$375.0 M

4,843

86%

$298.5 M

80%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2020 as of 12/13/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

4,201

$234.1 M

3,630

86%

$193.7 M

83%

C2

4,918

$137.4 M

3,412

69%

$75.3 M

55%

Total

9,119

$371.5 M

7,042

77%

$269.0 M

72%

 

E-rate Funding Year 2020

As of December 13th, 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 9,119 funding requests for $371 million. To date, USAC has committed $329 million for California applicants.

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.

January 28 Invoice Deadline

The deadline for invoicing of Funding Year 2020 non-recurring services is January 28, 2022. This is the last date an applicant may file an FCC Form 472 Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) form or a service provider may file an FCC Form 474 Service Provider Invoice (SPI) for E-rate reimbursement without an extension.

One-Time Request for Extension

Applicants or service providers may request a single one-time 120-day extension to file additional claims for reimbursement. However, the Invoice Deadline Extension Request must be submitted to USAC on or before the January 28, 2022 deadline. Requests received after this deadline cannot be processed by USAC. There is no penalty to file an extension request, and all requests that are filed by the deadline will be granted. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not invoicing is complete on a Funding Request, it is best to file the request for extension. Once approved, the final invoice deadline is May 31, 2022. More information on how to submit extension requests may be found on USAC’s website at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/invoicing/invoice-deadline-extensions/.

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 2021

The first FCC Form 486 deadline for FY 2021 was October 28, 2021 for funding waves 1-11 with services starting July 1, 2021.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

 
 

1-18

04/17/2021-08/12/2021

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2021

 

19

08/19/2021

12/17/2021

 

20

08/26/2021

12/24/2021

 

21

09/01/2021

12/30/2021

 

22

09/09/2021

01/07/2022

 

 

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

 
 

1-66

05/09/2020-08/04/2021

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2020

 

68

08/25/2021

12/23/2021

 

69

09/08/2021

01/06/2022

 

70

09/15/2021

01/13/2022

 

74

10/15/2021

02/12/2022

 

75

10/27/2021

02/24/2022

 

Funding Year 2019

For ongoing recurring services, starting on July 1, 2019, the following deadlines have passed or are approaching in the next few months.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

 
 

1-91

04/27/2019-
08/06/2021

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

 

93

09/24/2021

01/22/2022

 

95

12/08/2021

04/07/2022

 

 

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 and Emergency Connectivity Fund applicants are available or are coming soon.

Universal Services Administrative Company Recorded Resources

E-rate Resources

USAC has pre-recorded webinars and other materials available at its website at  https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/webinars/ . In November, USAC held a number of webinars which are now available to view:

  • E-rate Post-Commitment Process
  • EPC Administrative Window
  • Category Two Budgets
  • Eligible Services 101
  • E-rate Pre-Commitment Process
  • E-rate Program Overview

Emergency Connectivity Fund Resources

USAC has conducted multiple office hour webinars for ECF. You may view the webinars and register at this website: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/training/live-sessions/. The most recent session, will be held on December 16, 2021, is the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Reimbursement Webinar which will be available on the website soon.

K12 High Speed Network E-rate Resources

Lunch and Learn Events

K12HSN is currently hosting complimentary “Lunch and Learn” noon-hour office hours and webinars which focus on the E-rate and ECF processes from beginning to end and are tailored for California schools. To sign up, or to access recordings and materials from the most recent webinars, please visit the following websites:

Office Hours

Office hours will include discussion on the latest news about the E-rate and ECF programs, important deadlines not to miss, and what to focus on now to ensure a successful E-rate and ECF application and reimbursement process. While each office hour has a theme, audience members are encouraged to participate and may suggest conversation topics in advance by e-mailing eratequestions@lists.k12hsn.org.

Pre-Recorded Webinars Archive

Pre-recorded webinars are available on a wide variety of topics and are available for view at https://www.k12hsn.org/archived-e-rate-webinars.

E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Check EPC Profiles for Accuracy, Collect and Review NSLP and Enrollment Data, Request Replacement Budgets for Category 2

On October 26, 2021, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) opened the Administrative Window for updating entity profile information in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). Profile information includes an entity’s classification, address, enrollment, National School Lunch Program (NSLP) information, Urban/Rural status and is the basis of the discount calculation on the FCC Form 471.  Applicants should carefully review their entity profiles from now until the open of the FCC Form 471 window in early January at which time the entity profile information will be locked and not editable until the FY 2022 application window has closed. For applicants that applied for Category 2 in FY 2021, the Category 2 Budgets are fixed for the five-year budget cycle FY 2021-2025 unless a Replacement Budget is requested.  USAC will be issuing additional resources in the coming weeks demonstrating the process of requesting Replacement Budgets.

Important Enrollment and NSLP Data Reporting Information for FY 2022

Recognizing that student enrollment and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility data at schools continues to be impacted by COVID-19, USAC will permit applicants to continue utilizing their full-time enrollment and NSLP eligibility numbers from their most recently approved FY 2021 or FY 2020 Form 471 applications for the FY 2022 application cycle. The FY 2021 numbers are pre-populated in the school entity profiles and Category 2 budget forecasts will not change unless the school district overwrites these numbers with new data during the Administrative Window. For Category 2 budgets already established during the FY 2021 application cycle, a Replacement Category 2 Budget will need to be requested if revisions to full-time student counts are necessary.

Schools that do not have entity updates should confirm that EPC information matches their FY 2021 supporting documentation. Otherwise, schools may update their FY 2022 profiles utilizing Fall/Winter 2021/22 school year supporting documentation. Acceptable documentation sources for enrollment and National School Lunch Program eligibility include the following:

  • 2020/21 FRPM File on the CDE website: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/sd/filessp.asp
  • 2021/22 CALPADS 1.17 - FRPM/English Learner/Foster Youth – Count
  • 202/22 Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (“CNIP”) SNP Site Claim Report
  • 2021/22 Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Form SNP-19

It is important to note that applicants should only use data sources that accurately depict the enrollment and poverty rate of their school populations.

Updating Profiles in EPC

To update or verify the data for each school in the organization you must select each school listed under the “My Entities” section of the Landing Page. Once a school is selected, click “Manage Organization” to make updates to the individual school.

Once the discount profile has been updated for each school within the school district, please be sure to go back to your organization's landing page, click on discount rate link and the discount rate that will be imported into the FCC Form 471 will be displayed.

It is also important to verify the contact person’s information in the district’s profile. Since this person will receive communications from USAC, it is important that this be someone who has regular e-mail access and access to the school district’s account in the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC).