E-Rate News Flash 22-04

E-Rate
  Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Issue 22-04

March 14, 2022

E-Rate News Flash

Contents:

  • Announcements
  • E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Announcements

March 22, 2022 is E-Rate FCC Form 471 Deadline for Funding Year 2022

The FCC Form 471 filing deadline for Funding Year 2022 closes on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 8:59 p.m. PDT. All applicants who are seeking E-Rate funding for eligible Category 1 and Category 2 services delivered between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, must file their annual FCC Form 471 funding requests in USAC’s E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) online portal of the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website by the March 22 deadline.

What to Do if You Miss the Deadline

If you miss this deadline, you have a two-week window from March 22 to file and certify your FCC Form 471 in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and file a request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to waive the deadline. The request for waiver should be filed in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System with a citation to proceeding number 02-6. Your request should include a document explaining the circumstances leading to the late submission of your FCC Form 471 and a request for waiver of the FCC Form 471 filing deadline. The FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System is located at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. Schools needing assistance filing these waiver requests may contact K12HSN’s E-Rate Support Team at eratequestions@lists.k12hsn.org.

Initial Comment Period for Mandatory E-Rate Bidding Portal Rulemaking is March 28, 2022

As mentioned in previous editions of the News Flash, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing to implement new competitive bidding rules for E-Rate program participants including a mandatory third-party bidding portal administered by USAC. Proposed rules include the following:

  • Requiring all service providers to submit bids to USAC via the portal rather than directly to schools; USAC will hold bids and release them to the schools after the mandatory 28-day bidding period expires
  • Prohibiting any communications between bidders and schools outside of the bidding portal during the competitive bidding period
  • Requiring all competitive bidding documents, inclusive of evaluations, to be uploaded into USAC’s portal before the annual FCC Form 471 application is certified

Before the FCC implements new rules, it asks for public comment on the proposals and how the proposed rules may help or hinder program participation. The proposed rules may be viewed at this website: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-looks-promote-fair-open-competitive-bidding-e-rate-program-0.

Submitting Comments to the FCC

Schools are encouraged to review the proposed rules and to submit their own comments on how these changes may positively or negatively impact them. The CDE and K12HSN review the rulemaking in more detail and describe how to submit comments in a recorded webinar and materials posted at https://www.k12hsn.org/resources/erate/nprm. Schools may also wish to review a proposed petition from Funds For Learning at https://www.fundsforlearning.com/e-rate-bidding-process-petition/. There is an opportunity to sign the petition and include short comments.

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 2022 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. It is important to note that RAL corrections may be submitted to USAC up until a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) is issued on the FCC Form 471 application. Any errors found after the FCDL must be appealed to USAC within 60 days of the FCDL.

Resources on How to Submit RAL Corrections

USAC has recently issued a FCC Form 471 Receipt Acknowledgment Letter Modification Guide which you may access here https://apps.usac.org/sl/tools/news-briefs/preview.aspx?id=1034#:~:text=FCC%20Form%20471%20Receipt%20Acknowledgment%20Letter%20Modification%20Guide. K12HSN also providers guidance and reviews best practices on filing RAL corrections in its recorded webinar “Submitting Corrections & Understanding and Responding to USAC's Reviews” which you may review at this website https://www.k12hsn.org/archived-e-rate-webinars.

Respond to Universal Service Administrative Company Program Integrity Assurance Review

All FCC Form 471 applications undergo Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review by the program administrator, 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. Non-response to USAC’s questions may lead to delays in receipt of funding commitment decision letters. 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 questions are available through the EPC News Tab.

The notification in the EPC News tab 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
  • A hyperlink to your questions (the blue bar at the bottom of the notification)

How do Applicants view and respond to PIA Inquiries?

The EPC News item will include a hyperlink to the application that will take applicants to the application Summary page of the associated FCC Form 471. To view a complete list of PIA inquiries applicants must then navigate to the Review Inquiries page.

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 RAL 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.