E-Rate Central News for the Week
November 25, 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 SLD announced that the FY 2014 application window will open Thursday, January 9, 2014, at noon EST, and will close on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. We assume that this window period anticipates the approval and online implementation of the revised Form 471. The release of the new Form 471 currently hinges on OMB approval for which public comments are due today, November 25th.
Wave 28 for FY 2013 will be released on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, for $70.5 million. Funding is currently being provided for Priority 1 services only. Cumulative funding for FY 2013 will be $1.44 billion.
Wave 70 for FY 2012 will be released on Monday, December 2, 2013, for $1.05 million. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 90%, and is being denied at 89% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2012 will be $2.81 billion.
Wave 105 for FY 2011 will also be released on Monday, December 2, 2013. Priority 2 funding is being provided at 88%, and is being denied at 87% and below. Cumulative funding for FY 2011 is $2.64 billion.
Form 470 Issues for FY 2014
Applicants who have not yet filed their Form 470s for FY 2014 should be aware of the following changes in the Form 470 and in related rule interpretations:
The e-mail addresses for the contact person and signer are no longer an optional fields. Applicants cannot complete an online Form 470 without entering (and confirming) these e-mail addresses. Paper Form 470s submitted by mail without e-mail addresses will presumably generate requests for this information by the SLD's Problem Resolution team (which may delay posting of the Form 470s).
The SLD has indicated that this change was made as part of an effort to collect applicant e-mail addresses to facilitate electronic notification. While many applicants are routinely providing their e-mail addresses, others have been reluctant to provide these addresses — at least on Form 470s which are publicly posted — to avoid spam and/or in the fear of receiving virus-infected attachments during the bidding process.
E-mail problems of this nature can be minimized by creating specific e-mail addresses for E-rate purposes — e.g., e-rate@applicant-domain-name — which can be disabled if problems develop.
Revised Version of the Form 470:
A revised version of the Form 470 is in the final stage of approval. We expect it to be released in December. The major change will be to combine the Telecommunications and Internet Access categories into a single Priority 1 category designed to avoid misclassification of services during the bidding process. Applicants filing current versions of the Form 470 will not be required to re-file new versions. But those who have started, but not submitted, online Form 470s when the new Form 470 becomes effective, may have to begin anew.
Definition of RFP:
Two controversial rule interpretations (at least from an applicant's viewpoint) arose during the SLD's fall training sessions this fall which may affect this year's Form 470 process (see "SLD Training Clarifications" in our newsletter of October 21, 2013). One involved the definition of "RFP." This definition is important because the Form 470 requires an applicant to indicate whether it does or does not have RFPs. Not alerting potential bidders to RFP material is considered a serious bidding violation. The issue of what constitutes an RFP was also discussed in our newsletter of September 30th in light of a recent appeal decision in which the FCC found that extensive material provided by an applicant — not meeting the state's definition of a formal RFP — was nevertheless deemed an RFP for E-rate purposes. The SLD subsequently indicated that any bidding documentation that an applicant plans to provide to bidders to supplement a Form 470 constitutes an "RFP" and must be so indicated on the applicant's Form 470. We urge applicants to be careful in how they handle supplementary bidding material during this year's Form 470 process.
One potential point of confusion arises when an applicant lists a number of required services under one Form 470 category, one or more of which, but not all, may utilize an "RFP." The current version of the Form 470 requires all or none to have RFPs. With a mixture, the applicant must file two Form 470s — an RFP Form 470 and a non-RFP Form 470. The coming revised Form 470 language solves this problem by asking applicants to specify only that an RFP is available for "one or more" of the services listed.
Multiple Service Providers for Similar Services:
The second interpretation of concern is the SLD's position that an applicant can apply for funding from only one vendor for any particular service. The argument is that an applicant must select the most cost-effective offer for each service — a criteria which means, by definition, that there can be only one winning bidder. As a specific example, the SLD cited the ineligible use of a second cellular carrier — unless such use was dictated by separate coverage areas.
Following the same logic, however, we believe that an applicant could justify the use of two different providers for services which, while similar, had different evaluation criteria. As an example, we can envision an applicant selecting one cellular carrier for staff use and another for student use for a one-to-one mobile application. In this case, we believe it will be important to clearly distinguish the difference between requirements for what, on the surface, the SLD might consider a single service. We recommend that each service be listed separately and distinctly on the Form 470, and be evaluated separately in the bid assessment process. Documentation is likely to be a critical factor if eligibility is questioned.
E-Rate Updates and Reminders
Form 486 Deadlines:
Typically, a Form 486 must be filed no later than 120 days from FCDL issuance or the start of service. Assuming services started July 1, 2013, the deadlines for early FY 2013 funding waves 1-10 have already passed (although USAC will be giving a grace period to late filers). The upcoming Form 486 deadlines for the remainder of the year are:
Wave 12 12/04/2013
Wave 13 12/12/2013
Wave 14 12/19/2013
Wave 15 12/26/2013
Last week, USAC issued almost 1,080 Form 486 Urgent Reminder Letters to applicants funded in early FY 2013 funding waves who may have missed their Form 486 filing deadlines earlier this fall. These applicants will have an additional 20 days — to December 11th — to file their Form 486s. Additional information regarding the warning letters is included in the SLD News Brief referenced below.
Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated November 22 – Technology Plans and Form 470s
The SLD News Brief for November 22, 2013, continues the discussion of technology plans begun in the previous week's News Brief. The focus of the current News Brief is on the interrelationship between applicant technology plans and their Form 470s. It addresses the following questions:
- What is the relationship between the technology plan and the Form 470?
- How do you avoid an overly broad Form 470?
- How long and how detailed should a technology plan and Form 470 be?
- What effect does a technology plan's need assessment have on a Form 470?
- How specific should the scope of a project be?
- What effect(s) could minor or major changes to a technology plan have on a previously-filed Form 470?