E-Rate Central News for the Week
March 18, 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 filing window is now closed. USAC's preliminary estimate of FY 2013 demand should be released by mid-April.
The FCC announced last week that the inflation adjusted E-rate funding cap for FY 2013 will be increased 1.8% to just under $2.34 billion. The critical FCC decision on additional roll-over funding for FY 2013 is not expected until July.
Wave 35 for FY 2012 will be released on Monday, March 18, 2013, for $13.2 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $1.99 billion.
FY 2013 Form 471 Application Window Closed – Next Steps I
The Form 471 application window for FY 2013 closed on Thursday, March 14, 2013. Applications completed online or postmarked after this date will be treated as being received outside the filing window and will not likely be funded without an FCC waiver.
Applicants who successfully submitted their Form 471 applications by the March 14th deadline should do the following:
- If you mailed your application, certification, and/or attachments by express mail service, track the shipment online and make a copy of the successful delivery notification. If you used the Postal Service's return receipt service, you should retain a copy of the receipt when it's returned.
- Periodically check the status of your application on the SLD's Web site (see Application Status). At this stage in the application process, the status indicator might read:
Incomplete: If the application was done online, "Incomplete" means that the application process was abandoned before submission; this would not be a valid application. If the application was mailed, "Incomplete" means that the application has been received, but that only the basic Block 1 information has been data entered by the SLD. Mailed applications that were postmarked in time will be upgraded in status as soon as data entry is complete.
Complete: The application was successfully submitted online, but has not yet been certified (or the mailed-in certification has not yet been data entered).
Certified – In Window: This status indicator covers the following three situations for applications that were completed within the deadline: (a) the application was submitted and electronically certified online; (b) the application was submitted online and the mailed certification form has been received and recorded by the SLD; or (c) a properly certified application was mailed to the SLD and has been fully data entered.
Certified – Out of Window: The completed application was not fully submitted on time. Usually this means that the paper application, or the signed certification page of an online application, was postmarked after March 14th. As long as the application itself was submitted on time, USAC will provide additional, albeit limited, time to submit the certification (see below).
Initial Review: The application has already been entered into the review process. Applicants may begin receiving questions on these applications.
- FCC rules require that Item 21 attachments be filed within the window. As it does with missing certifications, USAC is expected to provide some limited time to submit missing Item 21 attachments. Note that, in any case, USAC cannot review an application without the attachments. Since mailed attachments are sent to Kansas, but PIA review is done in New Jersey, applicants may get requests from PIA for another copy of their attachments. Whenever possible, applicants should comply.
- Applicants should pay particular attention to the Form 471 Receipt Acknowledgment Letters ("RALs") that are mailed to applicants who have submitted Form 471s. The RALs are formatted to permit applicants to easily correct a number of ministerial and clerical ("M&C") errors that may have been made in their initial filings. Importantly, allowable corrections include adjustments — even increases — in discount rates and funding requests.
E-Rate Updates and Reminders
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing last week on the "Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission." Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), one of the two original Senators who had been instrumental in creating the E-rate program under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, took the opportunity to call for a new generation of E-rate — "E-Rate 2.0."
Sen. Rockefeller's remarks and press release provided little detail on what "E-Rate 2.0" might entail other than expressing the belief that every school should have one Gigabit connectivity by the end of the decade. More significantly, a New York Times report, apparently based on conversations with Rockefeller's staff, indicated that the Senator hoped to expand funding for the program to the tune of $5 billion to $9 billion over the rest of the decade. This could mean an additional $1.0–1.5 billion per year — something that is unlikely to happen until the FCC finds a way to broaden the contribution base for the Universal Service Fund.
As he has done in previous hearings with the FCC, Sen. Rockefeller asked each Commissioner individually to voice their support for the E-rate program. Assurances were received by each Commissioner, but the only substance on E-rate in the Commissioners' prepared statements came from Jessica Rosenworcel. Commissioner Rosenworcel, who had once worked on Rockefeller's staff, picked up on the "E-Rate 2.0" concept stating:
Going forward, we also need to update the E-Rate program to meet 21st century education needs. In my current role, I have met with school superintendents in communities as diverse as Miami, Florida and Kotzebue, Alaska. They are uniform in one thing—their praise for the power of E‑Rate to bring high-speed communications to their schools and libraries. They believe it is essential for digital age learning. But year-in and year-out, the demand for this program is double the amount the Commission makes available. Moreover, our surveys suggest that 80 percent of schools and libraries believe their broadband connections do not meet the current needs. So I believe it is time for E-Rate 2.0. I think it is time to reboot, reinvest, and reinvigorate this program and put it on a course to provide higher speeds and greater opportunities in the days ahead.
FCC Requests Nominations for Four More USAC Board Positions:
Last September, the FCC requested nominations (DA 12-1469) to fill nine of the eighteen outside director positions on the USAC Board that were being filled temporarily, were vacant, or would soon become vacant as of the end of 2012. Although nominations were due mid-October, the FCC has not yet made appointments for those positions.
Last week, the FCC requested nominations (DA 13-374) for an additional four director positions. Those nominations are due March 26th. Of the remaining five outside directors, all have terms expiring on December 31, 2013.
From an E-rate perspective, the most important Board positions are those held by the three school and one library representatives. The status of these positions is as follows:
- School position (expired 12/31/2011): Still being filled by Brian Talbott, American Association of Educational Service Agencies.
- School position (expired 12/31/2012): Still being filled by Sheryl Abshire, Calcasieu Parish School System.
- School position (expiring 12/31/2013): Vacant. Formerly held by Anne Bryant, National School Boards Association.
- Library position (expiring 12/31/2013): Filled by Anne Campbell, National City (CA) Public Library.
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. Comments on the new draft forms and instructions are due March 27th; reply comments are due April 8th.
Aside from a signature page to be added to the service provider's Form 474, the revisions do not change the basic fields in any of the forms. However, all proposed revisions include more detailed certifications, particularly on the service provider's Form 473. The most interesting change on the applicant's Form 472 was a reduction in the "Estimated time per response" from 1.5 to 1.0 hours — perhaps related to a change in the Form 472 instructions to remove all mention of the optional and seldom used Prediscount Cost Calculation Grid.
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.
Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated March 15 – Next Steps II
The SLD News Brief for March 15, 2013, also discussed the next steps applicants should take following the close of the FY 2013 application window. These steps include:
- Submit your Item 21 attachments. Technically, these attachments were due by the close of the window, but USAC will provide additional time.
- Certify your Form 471. Again this should have been done by the window close, but additional time will be provided.
- Certify any Form 470 that you cited on a funding request. FRNs citing uncertified Form 470s cannot be approved.
- Review your Receipt Acknowledgment Letter ("RAL") and submit any allowable corrections. Remember that RAL corrections involving funding changes must be of a ministerial and clerical ("M&C") nature.
- Check the status of your technology plan. Priority 2 services require an approved technology plan before the start of the services.
- Prepare for PIA review.
Monitor your preferred mode of contact for inquiries from PIA.