E-Rate Central E-Rate Consulting for schools and libraries
E-Rate Central Home E-Rate Central Services E-Rate Application Tips E-rate Forms Rack E-rate National and State Specific Information E-rate Service Provider Information E-rate Archives: News, Bulletins, CIPA, FCC, Terminology, Code9 Contact Us
News Archive > E-Rate News 2013
e-rate resources
e-rate newsletter
Receive the
E-rate Weekly
Newsletter
E-Rate Central on Twitter  E-Rate Central on Facebook  E-Rate Central on LinkedIn
 

In This Week's Issue
» Funding Status Update
» E-Rate 2.0 NPRM – Streamlining the E-Rate Program
» E-Rate Updates and Reminders
» Schools and Libraries News Brief for August 16 – Online Form 486

E-Rate Central News for the Week
August 19, 2013

Introduction

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.

Funding Status

Wave 14 for FY 2013 will be released on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, for $40.9 million. Funding is currently being provided for Priority 1 services only. Cumulative funding for FY 2013 will be $415 million.

Wave 56 for FY 2012 will be released on Thursday, August 22, 2013, for $7.16 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $2.73 billion.

Wave 100 for FY 2011 will be released on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, for $3.16 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 88% and above, and is being denied at 87% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2011 will be $2.61 billion.

E-Rate 2.0 NPRM – Streamlining the E-Rate Program

This is the fifth in a series of articles discussing the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries (FCC 13-100), the “E‑Rate 2.0 NPRM,” which was formally released on July 23rd. This article discusses streamlining the administration of the E-rate program, the third of the FCC’s primary goals.

Electronic Filing:

The FCC proposes to require all applicants and service providers to file all forms online, and to require USAC to make all notifications electronically. Since the vast majority of forms are already filed online (with the exception of the Form 500 which does not currently have an online option), it is not clear how much would be saved by eliminating the paper form option altogether. Hopefully, if the FCC moves in this direction, improvements will be made to make online entry more user-friendly. The development of a centralized portal containing all applicant forms, correspondence, and other basic information would be an important step in this direction.

Increasing Transparency:

“Transparency,” as defined in this section, refers to an earlier SECA proposal to provide additional levels of detail on application status including such additional designations as “Normal Review,” “Selective Review,” “Policy Review,” “Investigative Review,” and “Pending Program Decision on Available Internal Connection Funding.”  Not directly addressed in the NPRM is the need for greater transparency, as well as the development of due process relief, with respect to “black hole” situations involving long-pending funding decisions and appeals.

Speeding Funding Decisions:

The NPRM asks a number of questions concerning steps to be taken to speed up application reviews and funding decisions or disbursements. Suggestions for consideration include USAC deadlines, approvals of multi-year contracts, and additional filing windows.

Simplifying the ESL:

Proposed changes to the eligibility of specific products and services are covered in an earlier NPRM section on ensuring broadband access (see our newsletter of August 5, 2013). The FCC’s focus in this section is primarily on regulatory categories of service, the identification of services requiring CIPA compliance, and the possible elimination of the Form 486 (and Form 479) by adding a CIPA certification to the Form 471.

Funding Recovery:

Under current E-rate rules, full reimbursement is required from funded applicants and/or their service providers when funds are found to have been disbursed in error. While this rule is seen as “a powerful deterrent to waste, fraud, and abuse,” the NPRM questions whether full reimbursement may not be “commensurate with the violation incurred.”  The NPRM requests comment on “whether there are certain program violations that warrant reduced recovery or some other punitive measure short of recovery.”

Unused Funding:

Since E-rate is a discount program, not a grant program, a portion of awarded funding typically goes unused. Although such unused funds ultimately get rolled over into subsequent funding years, the FCC — and some program critics — remain concerned with the level of unused funds. The NPRM seeks comments on several suggestions for reducing the level of unused funds, or at least identifying such unused funds earlier.

Invoicing and Disbursements:

The most significant invoicing change proposed — one long requested by applicants — would permit BEAR reimbursement payments to be made directly to applicants, rather than being funneled through the service providers as is currently the case. The NPRM also addresses potential changes to the invoicing forms and deadlines.

Streamlining Appeals:

The FCC is clearly concerned about the number of appeals at both the USAC and FCC level, driven in part by the ability of applicants to appeal at both levels “to avoid a negative decision.”  The NPRM notes that “During the last three years, the Commission has made a concerted effort to reduce the backlog of E-rate appeals and has issued orders addressing more than 1,200 appeals. However, a backlog remains, including requests that have been pending for years, and we continue to receive many new appeals every month.”  While identifying the problem, the NPRM stops short of proposing concrete solutions, instead encouraging “commenters to suggest creative methods to improve the efficiency of the process while providing parties and other interested stakeholders with meaningful guidance about the decision.”

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

FCC Public Comment Schedule:

The FCC currently has four notices out for public comment or reply comment as per the following schedule:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries (FCC 13-100) — see article above
    Release Date: 07/23/2013
    Comment Date: 09/16/2013
    Reply Comment Date:   10/16/2013
Revisions to FCC Forms 470 and 471 (DA 13-1590)
    Release Date: 07/17/2013
    Comment Date: 08/16/2013
    Reply Comment Date:   08/30/2013
Revisions to FCC Forms 479, 486, and 500 (DA 13-1636)
    Release Date: 07/24/2013
    Comment Date: 08/14/2013
    Reply Comment Date:   08/28/2013
Draft Eligible Services List for FY 2014 (DA 13-1513)
    Release Date: 07/03/2013
    Comment Date (expired): 08/02/2013
    Reply Comment Date:   08/19/2013

Online BEAR Update:

The SLD’s online BEAR invoicing system is temporarily inoperable while it is being updated to incorporate the new data fields of the revised Form 472. Work on the online BEAR is expected to be completed within the next two weeks. In the meantime, BEAR invoices may be filed on paper. Type-in PDF versions of both forms, as well as a Form 473 (“SPAC”), are available in E‑Rate Central’s Forms Rack.

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated August 16 – Online Form 486

The SLD News Brief for August 16, 2013, provides the following tips for completing a Form 486 online:

  • Use the information from your FCDL to file your form.
  • Assuming the same BEN and funding year, you can include FRNs from different FCDLs on the same Form 486.
  • In Item 5, identify the contact person who should get program letters.
  • Complete Item 8 appropriately; for Priority 1 FRNs only, use “Other” from the dropdown menu, and enter “NONE” in the text box.
  • Try the expert version if you’re having trouble with the interview version.
  • Pay attention to any popups or warning messages that occur.
  • Use the following online navigation tips:
  • It is strongly suggested that you use Internet Explorer 6.0 or above.
  • Clear your Internet cache and temporary Internet files.
  • Allow popups.
  • Enable cookies.
  • Use the "Tab" key to move from one field to the next on a page.
  • Don't use your browser's "Forward" and "Back" buttons. Instead, use the navigation buttons in the form.
  • Don't open multiple tabs in the browser window you are using to file your form.
  • Enter your Block 4 certifications before you enter your Block 3 FRN information.
Disclaimer: This newsletter may contain unofficial information on prospective E-rate developments and/or may reflect our own interpretations of E-rate practices and regulations. Such information is provided for planning and guidance purposes only. It is not meant, in any way, to supplant official announcements and instructions provided by either the SLD or the FCC.