E-Rate Central News for the Week
February 25, 2013
The E-Rate Central News for the Week is prepared by E-Rate Central. E-Rate Central specializes in providing consulting, compliance, and forms processing services to E-rate applicants. To learn more about our services, please contact us by phone (516-801-7804), fax (516-801-7814), or through our Contact Us Web form. Additional E-rate information is located on the E-Rate Central Web site.
The FY 2013 Form 471 application window opened on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Most importantly, the window will close at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, March 14, 2013.
Wave 32 for FY 2012 will be released on Tuesday, February 26, 2013, for $12.4 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $1.91 billion.
Wave 82 for FY 2011 will be released on Wednesday, February 27, 2013, for $8.3 million. Priority 2 requests are being funded at 88% and above, and denied at 87% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2011 will be $2.53 billion.
Towards a More Nimble FCC
In an address to the Federal Communications Bar Association last week, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had some sympathetic and encouraging words to say about the lack of timeliness of FCC actions, be they on new rules, on interpretations of existing rules, or on appeals and waiver requests. Delays on these actions have long been a sore point for many E-rate applicants and service providers. Commissioner Pai's remarks made it clear that this frustration was felt both inside and outside the Commission. For example, he stated:
My interest in this issue doesn't come just from the complaints I've heard from Congress, the communications industry, and public interest groups. It's also a direct result of my own years of experience in the General Counsel's office. I remember the frustration of working on an issue and then watching it languish in the agency, not going anywhere.
And proceedings have dragged on for years. Last July during a Congressional oversight hearing, two Representatives—one Republican and one Democrat—asked us about two separate petitions, each of which had been pending at the Commission for over eight years. Shortly after that hearing, an item addressing one of those petitions was placed on circulation and approved by the Commission. But it shouldn't take an inquiry from Congress to get us moving on a petition that has been pending since the 20th century. And it shouldn't take us almost twelve years to issue what turned out to be an eleven paragraph order—ironically, an order chastising a private party for missing a deadline!
The comment about getting an inquiry from Congress is an interesting one because we are often asked whether this would help get action on languishing E-rate issues. While we believe this approach should sometimes be used as a method of last resort, doing so isn't any guarantee of getting the FCC to act (much less getting the FCC to make a favorable decision). As a recent example, consider the following:
- A letter to FCC Chairman Genachowski last September by ex-Senator John Kerry (now Secretary of State).
- The Chairman's response last January indicating only that "the Bureau is making every effort to conclude its review as quickly and equitably as possible" — in other words, the issue remains "Under Review."
The most encouraging aspect of Commissioner Pai's remarks, other than acknowledging that there was a problem, was some specific proposals he made to:
- Streamline the FCC's internal processes.
- Start taking statutory guidelines more seriously.
- Establish new internal deadlines.
- Create an "FCC Dashboard" on its website to track pending FCC issues.
With regard to specific E-rate issues, we can only hope that the FCC will pay particular attention to a white paper prepared by the State E-Rate Coordinators' Alliance ("SECA") and submitted to the FCC in 2011 dealing with "black holes," COMADs, and proposed solutions.
E-Rate Updates and Reminders
Misleading Form 471 Filing Warnings:
As it has done for the last few years, the SLD is sending out confusing notices labeled "Notification of FCC Form 470 Posted But No Associated FCC Form 471" to every applicant who posted a valid Form 470 for FY 2013 (i.e., filed by February 14, 2013), but who has not yet — as most have not — filed a Form 471. It is critically important that applicants not file their Form 471s until at least 28 days after having filed their Form 470s. Applicants should not let these letters trick them into filing premature Form 471s before their Allowable Contract Dates.
FCC Appeal Decisions Watch:
The FCC released one decision last week (DA 13-236) denying 25 appeals which had not been filed within the 60-day appeal window and which had "failed to demonstrate that special circumstances exist to justify a waiver of the deadline." In the same decision, the FCC also dismissed one petition for reconsideration finding that the appellant failed "to identify any material error, omission, or reason warranting reconsideration and relies on arguments that have been fully considered and rejected by the Bureau within the same proceeding."
IT Modernization Project:
The SLD has begun a process of updating its current information technology systems "to improve operational efficiencies and to enhance the customer experience." As a part of this process, the SLD is formally seeking comments from both applicants and service providers. Last week it released a Request for Comment and a detailed Draft Statement of Work. Comments are due March 22nd; reply comments are due April 12th.
Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated February 22 – Item 21 Attachments
The SLD News Brief for February 22, 2013, focuses on the type of information which should be included in Item 21 attachments. The following is an outline of the key points made for each service category:
- Provide the specific type(s) of service requested.
- Provide the number of lines, including the number of extensions.
- For digital transmission services, provide the bandwidth.
- For digital transmission circuits for basic conduit access to the Internet, provide the bandwidth of the services you are requesting.
- If you are requesting web hosting services, ask your service provider for a cost allocation and provide it as part of your attachment.
- For all Internal Connections requests, provide the make and model number and the quantity of any equipment included in your funding request.
- For bundled products, in addition to the make and model numbers, provide the SKU.
- If equipment can be used in both eligible and ineligible ways, clearly describe how you are using the equipment.
- If you are requesting discounts on equipment such as cabinets, racks, and UPSs, identify the equipment they are supporting.
Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections:
- Provide a list of all of the equipment being supported by the basic maintenance.
- State the basic maintenance tasks that will be performed and the costs associated with those tasks.
- If your basic maintenance contract includes both eligible and ineligible equipment, be sure you indicate what portion of the price reflects the price for maintenance of the ineligible equipment.
The News Brief also indicates that if bills are included as a part of an Item 21 attachment for recurring services, they should be only for a typical month — not for all twelve months of service. We would go one step forth and suggest that applicants not send bills at all — and most certainly not any with many pages. If PIA needs copies of bills, as it sometimes does, let PIA request them later on. Any bills sent need to be reviewed in full which may delay application processing and/or generate additional questions.