E-Rate News Flash 21-2

E-Rate
  Friday, February 5, 2021

Issue 21-02

February 5, 2021

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

Announcements

FCC Seeks Comment on Using E-rate Funding to Support Remote Learning

On February 1, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice requesting comment on multiple petitions filed on behalf of E-rate stakeholders to temporarily allow for use of E-rate funded services to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In their petitions, stakeholders requested that the FCC extend the definition of ‘classrooms’ to include any locations off of a school’s campus where students and teachers participate in remote learning. The petitioners further requested that the FCC make available unused E-rate funds for a “Remote Learning Application Filing Window” to allow schools to file new or revised requests for additional E-rate funding for off-campus services and equipment that facilitate remote learning during funding years 2020 and 2021. The FCC asks for further comment on a myriad of administrative, policy, and legal issues including, but not limited to:

  • What specific equipment and services should be funded and how much do they cost? Are these services cost effective? Schools are encouraged to submit specific project costs for the edification of the Commission’s policy makers.
  • How should applications be prioritized? Because available funding may not meet demand, should schools with the highest E-rate discount rate receive the highest priority in funding commitments? Or, are there other factors to be considered?
  • Should relief be applied retroactively to the start of the pandemic or on a go-forward basis only?
  • How can the FCC and schools protect against duplicative federal funding of services?

Comments are due to the FCC by February 16, 2021, and reply comments are due by February 23, 2021. Comments may be filed in the Electronic Comment Filing System under proceeding number 21-31 at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings and submitted comments may be viewed at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=21-31&sort=date_disseminated,DESC. The full public notice and FCC announcement may be viewed at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-seeks-comment-using-e-rate-funding-support-remote-learning-0

Funding Year 2021 FCC Form 470 “Deadline”

E-rate competitive bidding rules require that a FCC Form 470 be posted for a minimum of 28 days before filing an associated FCC Form 471 funding request. The E-rate applicant must also follow all E-rate competitive bidding rules. Note that the last date to file an FCC Form 470 and meet the minimum 28-day requirement, and also meet the FCC Form 471 filing deadline of March 25, would be February 25, 2021. It’s important to note, however, that compliance with E-rate competitive bidding requirements, as well as the time necessary to complete an FCC Form 471, make it unrealistic for most applicants to file their FCC Forms 470 on February 25th. Best practices are for applicants to plan for a 30-60 day competitive bidding cycle to allow for unexpected changes, review bids received, and award contracts. If you have not yet posted your FCC Form 470 for Funding Year 2021, and expect that you will need to do so, do not delay. More information on FCC Form 470 and competitive bidding best practices is available on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) Webinars web page at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/learn/videos/#FCC-Form-470. Additionally, K12HSN has recorded recently-held webinars reviewing the FCC Form 470 and Competitive Bidding requirements for Category One and Category Two which may be viewed on its website at: https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/training.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2020

As of January 27, 2021, California applicants have successfully submitted 9,054 funding requests for $371 million. To date, USAC has committed $293 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 lags slightly versus same period in the previous year.

 

 

FY 2020 Status  as of 01/27/2021

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved

Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

4,138

$234.1 M

3,749

91%

$204.4 M

87%

C2

4,916

$137.4 M

3,983

81%

$88.6 M

64%

Total

9.054

$371.5 M

7,732

85%

$293.0 M

79%

 

 

 

Versus FY 2019 as of 01/27/2020

 

Requested

Approved

 

Funding Requests

Funding Requested

Approved Requests

% of Requested

Funding Approved

% of Requested

C1

3,810

$246.1 M

3,535

93%

$218.6 M

89%

C2

4,385

$112.2 M

3,386

77%

$69.0 M

61%

Total

8,195

$358.3 M

6,921

84%

$287.6 M

80%

 

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 471 Filing Window for Funding Year 2021

USAC has announced the annual E-rate application FCC Form 471 filing window for Funding Year 2021. It opened at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) on Friday, January 15, 2021, and will close at 8:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on Thursday, March 25, 2021. 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 EPC online portal by the March 25 deadline.

February 25, 2021 Invoice Deadline – Additional Extension Available

The deadline for invoicing of Funding Year 2019 recurring services is February 25, 2021. If additional time is needed to complete invoicing, schools may request an additional 120-day extension in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). It is important that any extension requests be filed on or before the February 25, 2021 deadline, otherwise they will be denied. Instructions for completing an invoice deadline extension request in EPC are located at this website: https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/invoicing/invoice-deadline-extensions/. To view extended deadlines, applicants and service providers can use the Extended Deadline Tool: https://slweb.usac.org/frnextensiondeadline or the FRN Status Tool: https://data.usac.org/publicreports/FRN/Status/FundYear.

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

 
 

1-23

05/09/2020-10/01/2020

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2020

 

24

10/8/2020

2/5/2021

 

25

10/15/2020

2/12/2021

 

26

10/22/2020

2/19/2021

 

27

10/29/2020

2/26/2021

 

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

 
 

1-74

04/27/2019-
09/30/2020

Deadline passed for services starting 07/01/2019

 

75

10/7/2020

2/4/2021

 

76

10/21/2020

2/18/2021

 

 

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 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

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

Completing FCC Form 471

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

General E-rate Topics

Webinar Topic

Previous Recording Link

Maximizing Discounts & Category 2 Budgets: Administrative Window Best Practices

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

 

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

FCC Form 471 Filing Tips and Next Steps

As the FCC Form 471 deadline approaches on March 25, applicants should allow for adequate time to complete the necessary information for their applications and to submit and certify them by the deadline to be considered “within window.”

Review of Existing Services/Contracts

E-rate applicants should review and verify contracts for all eligible services expected to continue through the next funding year (July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022), review bills for service, and ensure funding requests filed include all eligible services and costs expected, including taxes and surcharges. If you find discrepancies and have already certified your FCC Form 471 funding requests, you may either submit corrections via a Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL) correction, or submit a new FCC Form 471 with the correct information prior to the filing deadline. USAC will require you to cancel any duplicate funding requests.

New Services and Estimating Taxes and Surcharges

E-rate applicants should review any bids and/or new contracts for service to ensure they are complete and include the entire costs of all services you expect to order in the 2021 funding year. If they do not include estimated taxes and surcharges, make sure to include these estimates in your funding requests. Some E-rate eligible services, such as Internal Connections, are subject to California sales tax, while recurring broadband services may be subject to California Public Utilities Commission surcharges. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not your services will be subject to these, contact your awarded service provider for clarification. For current California sales tax rates, please visit: https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sales-use-tax-rates.htm. For current California Public Utilities Commission Surcharges, please visit: https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/surchargesfeestaxes/.  

Review Certified Applications and File Corrections

Once you have certified your FCC Form 471 application, it is a good idea to review the application for any errors. You may do this by reviewing the live FCC Form 471 in the 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 also has a PDF link to the original form which you may download.

If you do identify an error, you may submit a request for correction through the Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL) Correction process. See USAC’s Ministerial & Clerical Errors web page at https://www.usac.org/e-rate/applicant-process/competitive-bidding/ministerial-clerical-errors/. Note that only certain FCC Form 471 ministerial and clerical errors may be corrected. If your error does not meet these criteria, it is better to file a new FCC Form 471 with the correct information prior to the filing deadline and to ask USAC to cancel the application that was filed in error. Any errors found after the filing deadline of March 25 must be corrected through the RAL 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.

Respond to USAC Program Integrity Assurance Review

All FCC Form 471 applications undergo Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review. 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. Applicants have 15 days to respond to USAC’s request for information, and may request an additional seven-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 will lead to the denial of the FCC Form 471 funding requests.

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.