E-Rate Central News for the Week
March 4, 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 33 for FY 2012 will be released on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, for $27.8 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $1.94 billion.
Wave 83 for FY 2011 will be released on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, for $8.0 million. Priority 2 requests are being funded at 88% and above, and denied at 87% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2011 will be $2.54 billion.
E-Rate and Sequestration
In our newsletter of December 17, 2012, referencing the then-pending national "fiscal cliff," we discussed E-rate's own impending fiscal cliff if demand continues to grow and insufficient funds are available to cover all Priority 2 requests, even at 90%, for FY 2013. Congress reached a last minute agreement to avoid part of the national fiscal cliff, but E-rate's cliff still looms. Worse still, with the federal government now operating under a sequestration budget, the likelihood that the E-rate fiscal cliff can be avoided is diminished.
The good news for E-rate during this sequestration is that the entire Universal Service Fund ("USF") is treated as an Exempt Budget Authority. As such, it is not subject to a mandatory cut. This means that E-rate commitments and disbursements will be theoretically unaffected. Since USAC expenses are covered by USF funds, its day-to-day operations should also be unaffected.
The bad news is that FCC operating functions are for the most part not exempt, and that the timeliness of key E-rate decisions that depend upon FCC actions may be adversely affected.
One measure of the magnitude of potential FCC problems can be found in the OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012. This report to Congress, required under the Act, estimated the magnitude of the cuts that would be required by sequestration. With regard to the FCC, the report's Appendix A indicated that cuts would be required of $28 million (or a little over 6.4%) out of the FCC's total non-USF budget of $435 million. Specifically:
The FCC has not yet announced publicly how these cuts would be implemented. However, based on announcements from other federal agencies, we would expect the first round of cuts to be made on a temporary basis, pending anticipated Congressional relief, by furloughing staff for 2-3 week periods. Depending upon how long sequestration lasts, and where E-rate stands in the FCC's priority list of critical functions — and E-rate may not be at the top of that list — examples of FCC actions that could be deferred might include:
- Approval of FY 2013 PIA procedures (needed for final application review)
- Release of first FY 2013 funding wave (needed as early as May)
- Public notice of the FY 2014 ESL (typically June or July)
- Determination of FY 2013 roll-over amount (typically July)
- Release of a new NPRM regarding changes to the E-rate program
- Decisions on FCC appeals
E-Rate Updates and Reminders
FCC Appeal Decisions Watch:
The FCC released one decision last week (DA 13-237) granting requests from 16 applicants for waivers of specific Form 486 filing deadlines. Two of the requests granted also included waivers of the 60-day appeal deadline. The decision is a good example of the FCC's willingness to grant relief from certain procedural rules if an applicant goes to the trouble of filing an FCC appeal and shows good cause for a waiver.
A good cause for a late filing, as reflected in previous FCC decisions, might include "immaterial clerical, ministerial or procedural errors, or that the late filings were due to circumstances beyond their control."
Paper E-Rate Forms:
Although most E-rate applicants file their forms online, there are situations in which forms are best completed on paper and mailed to the SLD — particularly if computer problems are encountered at the last moment. Type-in versions of paper forms, including the Form 471, are available in E-Rate Central's Forms Rack. Please note that these PDF type-in forms can be accessed and used with Adobe Reader, but can only be saved for future use with Adobe Acrobat.
Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated March 1 – Top Ten Tips for Applicants
The SLD News Brief for March 1, 2013, briefly discusses the following ten tips for FY 2013 applicants:
||Get an FCC Registration Number (FCC RN) if you don't yet have one.
||Review your entity name, number, address, and category in the Search for BEN Information tool and change any incorrect information.
||Request entity numbers for any new entities.
||Locate your NCES or FSCS codes.
||Locate the Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) for each of your service providers.
||Check the FCC Form 470 application number you intend to cite on each funding request.
||Review the information requested in Block 2 about high-speed Internet access services.
||For Libraries – have the required student counts ready for your Block 4 worksheet(s).
||For Schools – have your demographic information ready for your Block 4 worksheet(s).
||Certify your forms.
||Submit your Item 21 attachment.
FRN Balance Verifications:
The latest SLD News Brief also notes that the FCC is again conducting an audit of USAC. As a part of this process, the auditing firm sends "balance verification" e-mails to selected applicants and service providers asking them to verify USAC records as to disbursements made, or still outstanding, on certain FRNs as of specific dates. This should be a fairly simple and straight-forward process. Note that this is an audit of USAC, not of the applicants.