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In This Week's Issue
» Funding Status Update
» E-Rate 2.0 – Over 800 Comments Filed
» USAC Outreach to VoIP Providers
» E-Rate Updates and Reminders
» Schools and Libraries News Brief for September 20 – Getting Ready for FY 2014, cont.

E-Rate Central News for the Week
September 23, 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 19 for FY 2013 will be released on Wednesday, September 25, 2013, for $124 million.  Funding is currently being provided for Priority 1 services only.  Cumulative funding for FY 2013 will be $784 million.  USAC has indicated that the target for cumulative FY 2013 funding by the end of September is $1 billion.

Wave 61 for FY 2012 will be released on Thursday, September 26, 2013, for $5.06 millionl.  Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below.  Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $2.75 billion.

Wave 102 for FY 2011 will be released on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, for $7.43 million for two large California applicants.  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 $2.63 billion.

E-Rate 2.0 – Over 800 Comments Filed

Monday, September 16th, was the deadline for submitting initial comments to the FCC’s broad Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the “E-Rate 2.0 NPRM,” FCC 13-100) to modernize the E‑rate program.  Late-filed comments continued to flow in during the week, and are likely to be considered as well.  As of last Friday, the FCC database showed 801 individual filings under the specially created docket for the E-Rate 2.0 NPRM, WC Docket No. 13-184.

Those interested in thoroughly reviewing these comments with an eye to filing reply comments by the October 16th deadline have a lot of work to do.  As a review tool, we have posted an E‑Rate 2.0 NPRM Initial Filings Excel workbook on our website which provides links to all the filings in a structured format.  Specifically, we have:

  • Added affiliated organization names (if obvious) to filings submitted under personal names
  • Eliminated obvious duplications
  • Updated a few original filings with subsequent corrections
  • Separated out ex parte filings (reporting on meetings with FCC Commissioners and/or staff) and a couple of early reply comments from the bulk of the NPRM filed comments
  • Sorted and organized the filings for easier access

The posted workbook contains the following worksheets:

Tab Description
FCC Data Original filings as available in the FCC’s Search for Filed Comments (see below for access instructions)
Comments Alphabetical list of filed comments restructured as discussed above
Comments (2)    Same list of comments restructured to separate out one-page, two-page, and longer comments
Ex Parte Separate list of ex parte filings (note: parties holding separate FCC meetings may file separate ex parte letters)
Reply Comment  Two early reply comments
   
The following table shows the results of our restructuring:
801 Total FCC filings as of last Friday (unstructured)
 
396 One page comments
121 Two-page comments
197 Longer comments
714 Total NPRM comments (as restructured)
 
25 Ex Parte filings
2 Reply comments

The primary reason for breaking out the comments by page length is that most of the short filings contain very little substantive information other than a briefly stated opinion on a single topic — the shortest stating only “More money!” — or clearly repetitive language from an orchestrated filing campaign.*

With almost 200 comments over two pages in length, even a thorough review of the more substantial filings is going to take some work — something we’ll be working on over the next couple of weeks.  Last week’s newsletter pointed to a dozen of the earlier filings; as a starting point this week we’re highlighting 20 more sets of comments, including our own, largely those filed by major school, library, and service provider organizations.

USAC Outreach to VoIP Providers

Last April, the FCC released a Public Notice (DA 13-592) seeking comments on the eligibility of bundled components (see our newsletter of April 15, 2013).  Specifically, the FCC proposed to clarify that, as of FY 2014, “any ineligible components must be cost allocated, even if bundled with E-rate eligible services and offered to the public or some class of users.”  This clarification, if approved, would effectively eliminate the eligibility of “free” (or heavily discounted) bundled end-user equipment such as cellphones, other wireless devices, and/or VoIP handsets.

The flip side of this proposal was that such bundled VoIP services would remain eligible through FY 2013 as long as such bundled arrangements were “currently available to the public or a designated class of subscribers.”  The obvious question was what does that condition mean, and who would determine if the condition was met?

Last week, to its credit, USAC reached out to VoIP service providers, rather than to applicants, to gather supporting information.  The service provider letters read:

We are currently reviewing FCC Form 471s which cite your Service Provider Identification Number 1430XXXXX as the service provider.  We are trying to determine the eligibility of these requests and require your assistance for these interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) requests.

Do you offer any of your E-rate clients bundles that contain either on-premise equipment and/or free ineligible handsets?  Yes _____ No______

If no, please respond back to this correspondence in writing.

If yes, the bundle contains on-premise equipment, please provide the make and model of the equipment provided.

If yes, the bundle contains free ineligible handsets, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided clarifications to their 6th Report and Order which allowed free services or products under certain conditions.  Specifically, it said, “For example, many cell phones are free or available to the general public at a discounted price with the purchase of a two-year service contract.  Schools and libraries are free to take advantage of these deals, without cost-allocation, but cannot accept other equipment with service arrangements that are not otherwise available to some segment of the public or class of users.”   

In order for us to determine if you complied with FCC rules and to assist us in completing the review of your FCC Form 471, we require additional documentation to support requests which contains free ineligible handsets.  Please provide vendor documentation which supports that this offer was available to some segment of the public or class of users as was outlined in the FCC Order mentioned above.  Such documentation that indicates compliance with FCC rules may include, but is not limited to, screen shots of the vendor’s website or vendor promotional material.

Thank you for your cooperation and I look forward to hearing from you.

We recommend that applicants applying for discounts on bundled VoIP services in FY 2013 reach out to their service providers to make sure they are responding to USAC’s inquiry, and ask to be kept abreast of any USAC decisions regarding the eligibility of their specific services.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

FCC Public Comment Schedule:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries (FCC 13-100):

Release Date: 07/23/2013
Comment Date: 09/16/2013
Reply Comment Date:   10/16/2013

Filed comments on the E-Rate 2.0 NPRM are available on the FCC website, accessible through the ECFS Search screen.  Simply enter “13-184” in the Proceeding Number field, and push “Enter.”

FCC Cybersecurity Forum:

In recognition of October being Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will host a forum and hold technology demonstrations dedicated to cybersecurity issues consumers face, with a particular focus on safeguarding children on the Internet.  The forum will take place in Washington, DC on October 1, 2013.

FCC Appeal Decisions Watch:

The FCC released one appeal decision last week for Erie 1 BOCES et al (DA 13-1923) granting waivers for seven applicants to correct clerical errors.  In one case, the FCC also waived the Form 471 deadline missed because of a clerical error in filing the application itself.

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated September 20 – Getting Ready for FY 2014, cont.

Following up on the previous News Brief for applicants, the SLD News Brief for September 20, 2013, reviews a number of service provider tips for completing required actions for FY 2012 and FY 2013 to get ready for the upcoming FY 2014 application cycle.  The News Brief covers the following tips:

  1. File Form 473s for FY 2012 and FY 2013 (if not already filed).
  2. Verify that information on Form 498 is current.
  3. Finish filing Form 474 (“SPI”) invoices for FY 2012 recurring services.
  4. Approve applicant Form 472 (“BEAR”) invoices for FY 2012 recurring services.
  5. Check the status of FY 2012 non-recurring services.
  6. Verify that your applicant customers have filed Form 486s for approved FY 2013 services.

*  The most common short filing, repeated word-for-word, reads: “The E-Rate program has been a phenomenal success in bringing internet access to almost every classroom in America. In the last funding cycle, applications from schools and libraries requested a total of more than $5 billion—twice the amount of available funding. I respectfully urge the FCC to increase funding for the E-Rate program to at least $5 billion to meet this demand. All students need access to high-speed broadband. Our nation’s future depends on their success.”

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.