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In This Week's Issue
» Funding Status Update
» E-Rate 2.0 – Fallout from ConnectEd?
» E-Rate Updates and Reminders
» Schools and Libraries News Brief for August 23 – New Form 498

E-Rate Central News for the Week
August 26, 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 15 for FY 2013 will be released on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, for $45.2 million.  Funding is currently being provided for Priority 1 services only.  Cumulative funding for FY 2013 will be $451 million.

Wave 57 for FY 2012 will be released on Thursday, August 29, 2013, for $4.47 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 101 for FY 2011 will be released on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, for $11.2 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 $2.62 billion.

E-Rate 2.0 – Fallout from ConnectEd?

We take a break this week from our continuing series on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries (FCC 13-100), to discuss political developments over the last week or so which could derail additional funding for E-rate.

In early June, speaking at the Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina, President Obama laid out an educational technology plan dubbed “ConnectEd” (see our newsletter of June 10, 2013, and the Administration’s Fact Sheet).  A key part of the plan set a five-year goal of connecting 99 percent of America's students at broadband speeds of no less than 100 Mbps (and an actual target of 1 Gbps) per 1,000 students.  Not surprisingly, the same broadband goal was embodied in the FCC’s July NPRM.

Although neither the speech itself nor the Fact Sheet mentioned additional funding for E-rate, post-speech indications from the Administration suggested that USF surcharges might be raised on the order of $5 per line per year to meet the five-year goal.  This proposal received little attention until the President’s broadband initiative became the subject of a front page article in the Washington Post on August 14th.

When asked about this in a White House press briefing later that day, Principal Deputy Secretary Josh Ernest inadvertently politicized the ConnectEd proposal.  He noted that this was a presidential recommendation to the FCC, and that such an action could be taken by the FCC without Congressional action.  The next question was: “So the FCC will decide whether or not the tax is applied?  You’re not making an end-run around Congress in this case?” 

Given the political sensitivity of taxes, we would have hoped that the response could have clarified that USF surcharges are not taxes, but that was not mentioned at all.  Instead, only adding fuel to the fire, the response was:

Well, "end-run" is not the word I would use.  What I would say is that there has been – what we have seen from Congress is we've seen a lot of stagnation and dysfunction, and an inability to act on some rather obvious priorities of the American people.  And so we have made pretty clear – and I think the President has demonstrated a willingness – to act on his own where he can and where necessary to make progress on those priorities. And that's exactly what we're doing in this case.

In the past week, we have seen some indication of Congressional agitation which might first surface in the confirmation process for the two new FCC Commissioners (including Tom Wheeler, the nominee for Chairman).  Hopefully, this too shall pass and E-Rate 2.0 will move forward.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

FCC Public Comment Schedule:

The FCC currently has three 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

The reply comment period for the Draft Eligible Services List for FY 2014 (DA 13-1513) closed on August 19th.  One set of reply comments by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction supported the initial comments of the State E-Rate Coordinators’ Alliance (“SECA”) encouraging the FCC to clarify that Priority 2 equipment purchases and the associated installation services are both eligible even if procured under separate contracts.

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 later this week.  In the meantime, BEAR invoices may be filed on paper. A type-in PDF version of the Form 472 is available in E‑Rate Central’s Forms Rack.

ESH Requests for Item 21 Attachments:

A number of applicants have reported receiving e-mail requests from Educational SuperHighway (“ESH”) for copies of the Item 21 attachments from their FY 2013 applications. ESH is a non-profit, apparently politically well-connected, organization which has been collecting information on school broadband penetration nationwide.  ESH was previously promoting broadband speed tests, and is now seeking to collect broadband usage and pricing information from this year’s E‑rate applications.  Item 21 attachments are not generally available through USAC’s online database, so ESH is approaching applicants and/or consultants directly.

Applicants approached for copies of their Item 21 attachments can obviously decide for themselves whether or not to respond.  We make no recommendation on this decision one way or the other, but do proffer the following considerations:

  1. The FCC clearly needs better data on current broadband deployment, and the E-Rate 2.0 NPRM contains a number of proposals for collecting this data on a going-forward basis, including making Item 21 information publicly available.
  2. The ESH e-mail indicates that “We have been asked to put together an analysis of how E‑Rate funds are currently being spent across the country…”  What is not clear is who has asked them.  The FCC, after all, could itself obtain all Item 21 data from USAC and do its own analysis.
  3. Many applicants and service providers consider Item 21 data — particularly detailed pricing data — confidential.  Before providing such data to ESH, either voluntarily or as the result of a FOIA request (as hinted at in the ESH e-mail), we do suggest: (a) pre-notifying the affected service providers; (b) clearly marking the information “Confidential;” and (c) redacting any sensitive data.

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated August 23 – New Form 498

The SLD News Brief for August 23, 2013, indicates that a new version (August 2013) of service provider Form 498 is now available.  As of August 20th, service providers applying for a new SPIN or making changes to contact or remittance information must use the new version.  Submissions of the previous version will be accepted only if postmarked on or before the August 20th date.  An FCC Public Notice (DA 13-1777) explaining changes to the Form 498, primarily related to the Rural Healthcare program, was released last week.

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.