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E-Rate Central News for the Week
February 1, 2016

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 website.

Funding Status

Wave 35 for FY 2015 will be released on Thursday, February 4th. Funding for FY 2015 is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 services at all discount levels. As of Wave 34, cumulative funding for FY 2015 was $2.97 billion.

Wave 75 for FY 2014 will be released on Wednesday, February 3rd. Funding for FY 2014 is available for Priority 1 services only. Priority 2 funding has been denied at all discount levels. Cumulative funding for FY 2014 is $2.28 billion.

Updates on USAC’s E-Rate Productivity Center

FY 2016 Application Window Opens February 3rd:

USAC’s Special Edition News Brief dated January 25, 2016, announced the opening of the Form 471 application window at noon, on Wednesday, February 3rd. The window is currently scheduled to close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 29, 2016. This is an 87-day window period, two weeks longer than normal — and, as was the case last year, could go longer still if extended.

The window announcement stresses that this year’s application process may “present many opportunities for learning.”  Because the EPC system is new, both applicants and USAC will be learning as they go. Indeed, USAC is asking for “robust feedback” from early applicants, and is promising additional Form 471 system enhancements as the window progresses.

Additional information regarding the FY 2016 application window is discussed in the most recent USAC News Brief referenced below. Note that one key date, linked to the window close, is April 1st. This is the last day on which an applicant can file a Form 470, wait the required 28 days, and still file a Form 471 on April 29th. As we stress every year — and even more importantly this year — applicants should not wait until the last possible date to file either a Form 470 or a Form 471. Filing a Form 470 on April 1st raises the real possibility of making you an “April Fool.”

Connectivity Profile Question Options:

Coincident with the opening of the Form 471 window, we expect updates to the EPC school and library profiles to capture connectivity and contract data. As we discussed in our newsletter of January 18th, these sections must be completed before filing a Form 471. Larger applicants, in particular, may want to start working as soon as possible on the connectivity profiles of each of their entities, well before beginning their Form 471s. Our newsletter provided a preview of the connectivity section, but did not show the pulldown options for each question. USAC has provided the following list of connectivity questions and response options:

Does your school district or library system currently aggregate Internet access for the entire system (as opposed to buying Internet access on a building-by-building basis)?

  • Yes
  • No

Please give the total (aggregate) Internet access bandwidth speed for the school district or library system (including non E-rate supported services)

  • Download Speed
  • Download Speed Units
    • Mbps
    • Gbps
  • Upload Speed
  • Upload Speed Units
    • Mbps
    • Gbps

For each school in the school district or library in the library system:

  • Entity Name
  • BEN
  • Download Speed
  • Download Speed Units
    • Mbps
    • Gbps
  • Upload Speed
  • Upload Speed Units
    • Mbps
    • Gbps
  • What is the predominant connection type coming to this location?
    • Fiber
    • Copper
    • Fixed Wireless
    • Cable Modem
    • Other
    • None
  • How sufficient is the quality of the Wi-Fi at this location?
    • Completely
    • Mostly
    • Sometimes
    • Never
    • Not Applicable
  • What are your biggest barriers to having a robust internal network in your classrooms at this location?
    • No barriers
    • Equipment too costly
    • Installation too costly
    • Broadband connection speed to building is too slow
    • Outdated equipment
    • Lack of training and technical support
    • Inconsistent service / frequent outages and down time
    • Physical structure or layout of building(s)
    • Other  (If other, please specify)

Library Bookmobile and Kiosk Status:

Libraries with bookmobiles and/or kiosks will need to rely on their own states to determine how to list each within EPC. Depending upon the state, a bookmobile or kiosk may be categorized as either an outlet/branch, organizationally on par with any other library in EPC, or as an annex of another library.

The difference has two important implications, namely:

  1. Parent/child relationships are strictly enforced within EPC (see our newsletter of January 11th). Consider a library that, in the past, was treated as a single “Library” applicant. If there is an associated bookmobile, considered an annex, the applicant remains a “Library.”  But, if the bookmobile is considered a separate outlet, then the applicant is treated as a “Library System” with two libraries. In the latter case, a new entity number may be required to establish the proper parent/child relationship.
  2. The distinction also affects Category 2 budgets. A single “Library” with an annex gets a single Category 2 budget based on the combined square footage. If the bookmobile is a separate “Library,” it has its own Category 2 budget, most likely at the minimum $9,200 pre-discount level.

Private or charter schools with multiple locations face similar issues depending upon whether separate buildings are considered to be single schools (with annexes) or multiple schools by their states.

Password Reset Cycle:

Applicants, likely to be filing forms near the close of any deadline, should remember that EPC user passwords need to be reset after 60 days. Waiting until a deadline to reset a password, makes that deadline just that much more difficult. The EPC system will provide system login or email reminders 5 days or so before a current password expires.

Our suggestion for password management — knowing that passwords must contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters — is to pick a password ending with a number, perhaps “1” to start, then incrementing it by one on each reset. The password reset cycle is four, meaning that a given password can be reused after three sequential resets. We’ve already been through 1, 2, 3, and 4. We’re now back to 1. We thought about continuing the numbering sequentially so as to create a rough historic record on the life of EPC (at a rate of 6-7 per year), but decided there were enough other things to remember in EPC.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

FCC Issues Broadband Progress Report:

As a part of a broader activity, partially related to E-rate, the FCC adopted its 2016 Broadband Progress Report. Such reports are required annually under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to determine whether advanced telecommunications capability “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”  If not, the Act requires the FCC to “take immediate action” to speed deployment.

The 2016 report concludes that significant progress has been made in the last year, but that “34 million Americans still lack access to broadband meeting today’s benchmark speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads/3 Mbps for uploads.”  More specifically, with regard to E-rate, the report indicates that only “59 percent of schools have met the FCC’s short-term goal of purchasing service that delivers at least 100 Mbps per 1,000 users, and a much smaller percent have met the longer-term goal of 1 Gbps/1,000 users.

With respect to the need to “take immediate action,” perhaps beyond noting the “significant progress,” FCC Chairman Wheeler’s supporting statement references a report conclusion that “advanced telecommunications capability requires access to both fixed and mobile broadband,” but that the FCC is “not ready to establish a speed benchmark for mobile services as we have for fixed broadband service…and we will ask for more comment, and possibly consider new data, before we set a quality benchmark for an Internet access service where speeds are by nature less precise than fixed service speeds.”  How this inquiry will relate to possible E-rate support for mobile wireless services in the future is not yet clear.

FCC Decision Watch:

The FCC issued its latest monthly set of “streamlined,” precedent-based decisions in Public Notice DA 16-101, including:

  1. Dismissed:
    1. Three requests for review that should have first been appealed to USAC.
    2. Seven requests for review or waiver, dismissed without prejudice, which did not meet the basic requirements of the FCC rules. Six, for example, failed to even cite the associated application numbers.
    3. One request for waiver, deemed moot, related to a funding request that had already been approved by USAC.
  2. Granted three requests for review or waiver for ministerial and/or clerical errors on applicant Form 471s involving an incorrect billed entity number, the mis-categorization of a non-recurring service, and an incorrect vendor selection date.
  3. Denied:
    1. One invoice deadline extension request filed more than twelve months late (and not demonstrating “extraordinary circumstances”).
    2. One request for waiver for ministerial and/or clerical errors on a Form 471 for which the applicant did not, in the Commission’s judgement, demonstrate “good cause.”
    3. One request for support of a type of service not covered by the applicant’s Form 470.
    4. Four requests for waiver not filed within the 60-day appeal window.

Form 486 Deadlines for February:

The Form 486 deadline for certifying the start of service (and CIPA compliance, if applicable) is 120 days from the later of the FCDL approval date or the start of service date. The February deadlines (adjusted to Monday when the 120-day deadline falls on a Saturday) for approved FY 2015 applications are:
                                          Wave 20                02/05/2016
                                          Wave 21                02/15/2016
                                          Wave 22                02/19/2016
                                          Wave 23                02/26/2016

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated January 29 – Form 471 Filing Tips

The S&L News Brief of January 29, 2016, reviews the FY 2016 application window dates, and provides tips for filing a Form 471 online, including:

  • Log in to your EPC account
  • Check your organization’s applicant type (Note: CSB’s ability to correct an applicant’s type is expected to be enhanced as of the opening of the window.)
  • Review your organization’s profile information
  • Ask for assistance

To these tips, we would add the following notes:

  1. USAC has recently given State E-rate Coordinators enhanced access to which public schools (including charter schools) and libraries have not yet activated their EPC accounts. Although the activation data appears to be less than complete, we expect that a number of State Coordinators will begin reaching out to these applicants.
  2. Current limitations of the Client Service Bureau (“CSB”) to correct applicant types, such as consortia misclassified as school districts, is expected to be resolved later this week as EPC is updated for the opening of the application window.
  3. The News Brief tip on reviewing your organization’s profile information focuses only on the existing profile data. As discussed above, school and library profile information is being expanded as the window is opened to include connectivity and contract data. Applicants can, and should, begin adding this data later this 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.