E-Rate Central News for the Week
March 11, 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 34 for FY 2012 will be released on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, for $41.3 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $1.98 billion — marginally ahead of FY 2011's $1.97 billion in cumulative funding as of the final week of last year's application window.
Wave 84 for FY 2011 will be released on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, for $4.2 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.
FY 2013 Applications: The Final Days
Warning: The deadline for filing Form 471 applications for FY 2013, the next funding year, is Thursday, March 14, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Applications completed online or postmarked after this time and date will be treated as received outside the filing window and may not be funded.
For the inevitable applicants who are going to wait until Thursday to submit their Form 471s, we offer the following suggestions:
- For online filers. The online filing system has historically become overloaded during the last day or two, and we're already experiencing and hearing more about system time-outs (see the hint in our Update section below) and other problems. If last-minute problems are experienced with the SLD's online data entry system, it is important to document that the filing had been in process when the problems developed. In particular:
- We suggest periodic screen printouts — particularly of the screen that appears early in the filing process displaying the Form 471 number and security code. It is also important to call the SLD's help line (888-203-8100) to report problems. The help line typically remains open one-half hour past the 11:59 p.m. EDT deadline. If you call with a filing problem, make sure you retain the assigned Case Number.
- To avoid problems from the outset, be sure to use Internet Explorer, not an alternative browser. It also pays to clear out all cookies. The SLD's latest guidance for avoiding or dealing with a variety of possible online filing problems is available at Online Troubleshooting.
- Remember that all Form 471s should also be certified by the deadline. If the application is not certified online using a PIN, the certification should be printed out, signed and dated, and mailed by the deadline. If the application is submitted online and on time, but not certified, the SLD will provide a reminder and a second chance to do so. If at all possible, please do not rely on this second chance.
- Remember also that the E-rate rules require Item 21 attachments to be filed by the close of the window. Item 21 attachments may be submitted online as a part of the online Form 471 process, or by e-mail, fax, or mail. Again, we expect the SLD to provide a reminder and second chance, but encourage applicants not to count on it.
- When mailing a paper Form 471, Item 21 attachments, and/or a certification to the SLD, we recommend that the postmark date be documented. If using an express mailing service (e.g., FedEx), the electronic pickup date in the tracking system serves as the "postmark." Make sure you know the time of the latest express mail pickup in your area.
If using the U.S. Postal Service, similar advice applies. Use certified mail and make sure the certification is time-stamped before the 11:59 p.m. EDT deadline. Some post offices have earlier closing times than others. Check the USPS Web site to find the nearest offices and to check their business hours.
- Any Form 470 referenced in a Form 471 must also be signed and certified to be valid. Applicants who filed a Form 470 online a month or two ago, but who did not electronically certify it online, should make sure that their paper certification pages have been submitted. The deadline for submitting a Form 470 certification is the same as the Form 471 deadline.
The easiest way to confirm that a specific Form 470 has been certified is to use the Form 470 Search Posted feature on the SLD Web site. The first section of a posted Form 470 should show a Certification Received Date. If this field is blank, and you just mailed the certification, make sure you can document the postmark date. If you mailed the certification a while ago, and the field is still blank, we suggest resubmitting the certification before the deadline.
More generally, applicants would do well to review the Top Ten Tips for Applicants recently provided in the SLD News Brief for March 1, 2013.
E-Rate Updates and Reminders
Hint on Avoiding Online Form 471 Timeouts:
The SLD's online Form 471 system is designed to time-out after 15 minutes of inactivity. If this occurs, the applicant must go back into the application using the Form 471 "Continue Incomplete" button in the Apply Online section of the SLD's Web site.
To avoid timeouts in the first place, it is useful to know that the "15 minutes of inactivity" refers to the completion of different steps on a single Web page in the application process, not simply to continuous typing into various fields. If work on a Block 4 or a Block 5 is going to take more than 15 minutes, it is worth entering — and thus saving — any completed data every 10 minutes or so. It's much easier to get back into that block in the current session than to go back into the application and reenter all unsaved data.
FCC Requests Comments on New Draft Versions of Forms 472, 473, and 474:
The FCC has requested comments on new draft versions of the Form 472 ("BEAR"), Form 473 ("SPAC"), Form 474 ("SPI"), and their associated instructions. At first glance, the drafts appear to be pro forma updates, periodically required, of the 2007 versions. Disappointingly, for example, the new draft BEAR form still does not include applicant remittance instructions and address information that both applicants and service providers have been requesting for years. Links to the new draft documents are as follows:
Comments on the new draft forms and instructions are due March 27th; reply comments are due April 8th.
Comment Period Deadline on IT Modernization Project:
As previously reported, 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. Comments are due March 22nd; reply comments are due April 12th.
Although we don't expect a great number of comments from applicants — in part because of the overlap of the comment period with the close of the FY 2013 application window — the request included a detailed Draft Statement of Work containing some useful, or at least interesting, information such as:
- A summary of E-rate deadlines (Table 1, pp. 3-4).
- A listing of the SLD's current main IT systems (Table 2, p. 22) which may help explain the complexities that the SLD faces in maintaining its existing systems.
- Statistics on key SLD workload processes for 2008-2011 (Table A, Attachment 3).
E-Rate Consultant Database Updates:
E-Rate Central and some of the other larger E-rate consultants maintain databases on their Web sites driven in large part by extracting data from the SLD's Data Retrieval Tool and presenting it in useful ways. Although this data is typically downloaded from the SLD's site during off-hours, E-Rate Central and others have agreed to dramatically reduce downloading activities during the final week of the application window so as not to place any extra strain on the SLD's systems. Users of our search tools should recognize that certain funding data, particularly for earlier years, may be a few days out of date until next Friday.
Schools and Libraries News Briefs Dated March 8-10 – More Application Reminders
The SLD News Brief for March 8, 2013, provides a few general reminders on the submission of Item 21 attachments, either online or on paper. This is in addition to the more detailed information on Item 21 attachments provided in the SLD News Brief for February 22, 2013.
The SLD also released Special Edition News Briefs. The first on March 9, 2012, reviews Billed Entity Numbers, FCC Registration Numbers, and Consultant Registration Numbers. The second on March 10, 2012, summarizes the information required in Block 2.