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E-Rate Central News for the Week
April 4, 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 44 for FY 2015 will be released on Thursday, April 7th. Funding for FY 2015 is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 services at all discount levels. Cumulative funding for FY 2015 is $3.19 billion.

Updates on USAC’s E-Rate Productivity Center

New FRN Bulk Upload Templates:

USAC’s release of a new bulk upload template for FRN line item data and managed recipient information has been delayed a few days for final testing and debugging. The templates, together with user guides, are expected to be released later this week.  When available, the Excel templates can be downloaded from either:

  • USAC’s FY 2016 Filing Window Headquarters page under the heading “Related Templates;” or
  • EPC at the FRN level within a draft Form 471.

For the latter, click on the “Bulk Upload” button.

EPC Bulk Upload Button

Next, click on the “Download template” link.

EPC download template link

Caution: The template access feature in EPC was mistakenly activated last week. Templates downloaded before USAC formally announces their availability may not be the final and fully functional versions.

Post-Application EPC Features:

Once a Form 471 is submitted, it can be viewed as “Certified” by clicking on “FCC Forms” in the left-hand toolbar, selecting the “FCC Form 471” pulldown, and clicking on the Form 471 number in the application window. From that view, two “lightning bolt” options are available by clicking on “Related Actions” in the left-hand toolbar. Note:

  1. Correspondence regarding PIA application review for FY 2016 applications will be handled through EPC. As shown below, both PIA inquiries and applicant replies will be logged and tracked.
  2. USAC will no longer send Receipt Acknowledgement Letters (“RALs”) to applicants submitting Form 471s. RAL corrections can be submitted by clicking on the “Submit Modification Request (RAL)” link and following the directions. (Allowable corrections will be discussed in a future newsletter.)  This link is already live and available for making corrections to filed applications.

    Submit Modification Request (RAL)

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

FY 2016 Application Window is Open — Form 470 Implications:

The Form 471 application window for FY 2016 opened on February 3rd. The window is scheduled to close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29, 2016. The entire application process for FY 2016 is being handled through USAC’s new EPC portal. The learning curve for new users is steep. Please start work as early as possible.

Applicants still needing to file a Form 470 for FY 2016 have a problem. Because a Form 470 must be posted for 28 days before selecting a vendor, last Friday, April 1st, was the deadline for filing a Form 470 that could be cited in a Form 471 application due April 29th. Applicants should note the following:

  1. Many applicants who did file a timely Form 470 may begin receiving “Form 470 But No Form 471” notifications this week. Last year, USAC sent over 25,000 such letters. This year, similar notifications may show up electronically in EPC “News.”  In either case, recipients should not panic. This is simply USAC’s way of warning applicants who filed Form 470s of the upcoming Form 471 deadline.
  1. Applicants who did not file a Form 470 by April 1st have the following options:
    1. Those receiving services under multi-year contracts can file a Form 471 for those services citing the appropriate earlier year Form 470s.
    2. State master contracts, supported by state-filed Form 470s, may be available for some services. Remember that multi-vendor contracts require outreach to all vendors.
    3. File a Form 470 late and plan to file a Form 471 after April 29th as soon as the 28 days are up and vendors are selected. This may be an effective strategy in either of the following two situations:
      • The FY 2016 application window is extended — a distinct possibility; or
      • The FCC would grant an application deadline waiver — historically being approved for Form 471s filed within 14 days of the close of the window.

File Along with Me Updates:

A USAC blog, “File Along with Me,” initiated in early February, provides additional information on the application process. Links to last week’s postings are provided below. You can subscribe to the blog by entering your email address on the blog’s home page (under the USAC logo), and confirming the resulting email.

Post No.   Title

  1.       Prepping for FCC Form 471: Check Your Profile Info Again!
  2.       Cheat Sheets for Success: Filing Guides and Bulk Upload Templates
  3.       Decoding the Codes: Learn About the Codes You Need To File

FCC Decision Watch:

The FCC issued its latest monthly set of “streamlined,” precedent-based decisions in Public Notice DA 16-334, including:

  1. Granted:
    1. One petition for reconsideration of a late-filed Form 471 due to actions beyond the applicant’s control. It is important to note that the applicant’s successful petition highlighted two “special circumstances” or “new facts” for the FCC’s reconsideration.
    2. One request for review granting the applicant additional time to respond to USAC’s requests for information.
    3. One request for an invoice deadline extension.
    4. Two requests for waivers of the Form 471 window for an application or certification submitted within 14 days of the deadline.
    5. Two requests for reviews and/or waivers approving Form 471 corrections of ministerial and/or clerical errors.
    6. Three requests for waiver of the signed contract requirement when there was a “legally binding agreement in place” or, in one case, at least “some sort of an agreement in place.”
    7. One request for waiver of the requirement to make price the most important factor in the bid assessment process when the FCC found that the applicant had, in fact, “selected the lowest priced option.”
  2. Partially granted:
    1. Three requests for USAC review of cost allocation for ineligible components.
    2. One request for the allocation of eligible on-campus use of cellular air cards vs. ineligible off-campus use.
      Note: This decision involved an FY 2006 funding request — well before the FCC “clarified” the ineligibility of off-campus wireless data services. As of FY 2015, on-campus cellular data is eligible only if the applicant can show — and the proof is difficult — that cellular is a cost-effective alternative to a normal WiFi solution.
  3. Dismissed:
    1. Four requests for reviews that should have first been appealed to USAC.
    2. Three requests for reviews or waivers, dismissed without prejudice, which did not meet the basic requirements of the FCC rules. All three failed to cite the associated application numbers.
    3. Seven petitions for reconsideration, including one late filed petition. Note that although the normal appeal window is 60 days, petitions for reconsideration must be filed within 30 days.

      Note: An FCC footnote includes a reminder that the appeal (or petition) deadline is based on the “initial adverse decision date,” not on the date of any subsequent USAC action (e.g., a demand payment letter).
    4. One request for review of an applicant’s discount rate.
    5. Two requests for review of services deemed duplicative.
    6. One request for review of a Form 470 failing to include sufficient information to enable prospective service providers to formulate bids.

      Note: The new EPC system permits applicants to easily upload supporting Form 470 service requirements as “RFPs,” even if the applicants are not using what many would consider formal RFPs. An advantage of including one or more “RFPs” when filing an initial Form 470 is that additional documentation (e.g., such as a Q&A or a minor modification) can be added during the required posting period for clarification.
    7. One request for review involving improper service provider involvement in the Form 470.
    8. One request for an invoice deadline extension that failed to provide a “reasonable basis” for the delay.
    9. One request for additional funding above that year’s Priority 2 funding cap.
    10. Five requests for waivers of the Form 471 filing window.
    11. Two requests for waivers seeking permission to correct alleged ministerial and/or clerical errors.
    12. Seven requests for reviews or waivers not filed within the 60-day appeal window.

Large Applicant Connectivity Profile Option Deadline:

Large applicants seeking to take advantage of USAC’s offer to data enter EPC connectivity profile information have until today, April 4th, to complete and submit a Connectivity Questions Worksheet. To use this option, an applicant must have 50 or more entities. For additional information, see our newsletter of March 21st and/or USAC’s Special Edition News Brief of March 15th.

FCC Reforms Lifeline Program to Support Broadband:

The FCC voted last week to adopt a new order to reform and modernize the Lifeline program, one of the other four Universal Service Fund programs. The revised program will permit qualified low-income families to use Lifeline’s $9.25 monthly subsidy for mobile or fixed broadband service, not just for traditional voice telephone service. The FCC news release notes in part that the modernization should help “close the homework gap by promoting the offering of mobile devices with Wi-Fi and hotspot functionality.”  The actual order has not yet been issued.

Form 486 Deadlines for April:

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 deadlines (adjusted for weekends and holidays) for April for approved FY 2015 applications are:
                                          Wave 28                04/11/2016
                                          Wave 29                04/15/2016
                                          Wave 30                04/22/2016

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated April 1 – Preparing to File a Form 471

The S&L News Brief of April 1, 2016, discusses the following tips for an applicant preparing to file a Form 471:

  • Get ready to file and certify the Form 471 in the E-rate Productivity Center (“EPC”).
  • Review the FY 2016 Eligible Services List (“ESL”).
  • File early (but not before any associated Form 470 has been posted for at least 28 days).
  • Obtain the identification numbers you will need to file the Form 471.
  • Enter required information in your entity profile in EPC. Added note: Also enter any required information in your contract and connectivity profiles.
  • Collect the documents you will need to complete your form.
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.