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E-Rate Central News for the Week
August 22, 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

FY 2016:

USAC released Wave 9 for FY 2016, totaling $50.3 million, on Friday, August 19th.  Cumulative national funding through Wave 9 is $346 million.

FY 2015:

USAC will release Wave 62 for FY 2015 on Tuesday, August 23rd.  This is a small wave with funding for only one applicant.  Cumulative funding through Wave 61 is $3.31 billion.

Updates on USAC’s E-Rate Productivity Center

PIA Procedures and State Coordination:

Prior to the development of EPC for FY 2016, applicants receiving emailed questions from PIA could read them all in one document, either within the text of the emails themselves or as attachments to those emails.  Halfway through the 15-day response period, if no responses were received, PIA would resend the questions to the applicants as reminders.  State E-Rate Coordinators were copied on these reminder emails.

This process worked well.  Applicants had a single document of outstanding questions.  State coordinators had easy access to the types of questions being asked of their applicants statewide, and could, if appropriate, proactively intervene to provide assistance.

The FY 2016 PIA process is much more complex.  Applicants first receive an email notifying them that questions are pending within their EPC portals.  Initial EPC access leads to a list of inquiry types.  Within each inquiry list, individual questions must be accessed and answered separately.  If a specific question has subparts, as do most, each subpart requires an answer (whether applicable or not).  Reminder emails, if necessary, are sent to applicants about a week later, directing the applicants back into the inquiry section of their EPC portals.  In the case of public schools and libraries, copies of those reminder emails are sent to the appropriate state coordinators.

From an applicant’s perspective, we believe that it is important to understand how the revised EPC-based PIA process affects the review efforts of their State E-Rate Coordinator.  Even in states with active coordinators, these changes will affect how much support applicants are likely to receive without proactive outreach on their own behalf.  In particular:

  1. As with applicants, State E-Rate Coordinators must follow the same convoluted train of EPC steps to see all PIA questions for each application (and, ultimately, to eliminate the “Task” generated within EPC for each question viewed).  From a workload standpoint, this is likely to limit a coordinator’s role in the PIA review process for public schools and libraries.
  2. State E-Rate Coordinators no longer receive any PIA notices for non-public school applicants.

To more fully understand these limitations, here’s how the PIA review process works for State E-Rate Coordinators:

  1. Coordinators are copied on the PIA reminder e-mails sent to applicants.  One minor problem in this regard is that, depending upon the individual PIA reviewer, the email may or may not specify the applicant name or application number.  In the worst case, the email simply reads:
    x

    This is a small annoyance to coordinators trying to determine which applicant is being referenced before clicking through into EPC.
  2. The “Click here” link doesn’t actually lead to the details, but to a somewhat generic letter in the applicant’s EPC “News” feed including a list of the types of inquiries.  A link within the “News” letter doesn’t lead to the questions either, but to the applicant’s Form 471.  From there, use the link to “Review Inquiries.”
    x
  3. The “Review Inquiries” page still shows only the basic question types (six different Category 2 questions in the following example).  To get closer to the actual questions, click on the “Respond to Inquiries” link.
    x
  4. Getting closer.  “Respond to Inquiries” links to a similarly formatted page, but each question “Name” is now a hot link.
    x
  5. Clicking on the first “Category Two Budget” link gets you to the page addressing the first actual inquiry consisting, in this case, of three questions and/or sub-questions requiring eight responses.  For a State E-Rate Coordinator, seeking only to see all questions on this application, the next step is to click on “Save and Continue,” returning to the previous list of “Pending Inquiries,” and clicking on the hot link for the next inquiry until all six sets of questions have been reviewed.
  6. To further compound the process, each time a State E-Rate Coordinator (or applicant, for that matter) views one set of questions, EPC generates a “Task” for that user.
    x

In this example, there were six sets of questions.  Viewing them all would have resulted in six separate tasks.  If a State E-Rate Coordinator wishes to avoid a seemingly endless list of pending “Tasks,” it is necessary to clear them out one-by-one.  This can be done by clicking on each “Task” individually, returning to the “Pending Inquiry” list, and clicking the “Close” button at the bottom.

Good intentioned as they are, we believe that State E-Rate Coordinators are going to be hard-pressed to keep up with all the PIA reminders they are being sent this year.  Applicants (and their consultants) needing state coordination assistance this year should proactively reach out to their State E-Rate Coordinators.  A list of the state school and library coordinators, as best we can determine, can be found on the State Information pages of the E-Rate Central website.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

USAC Fall Training Schedule:

USAC has posted the locations and dates for its annual fall training series on its Trainings & Outreach site.  Registration information for these sessions is expected to be provided this week.  For planning purposes, the schedule is:

      • Washington, DC Monday, September 26, 2016
Orlando, FL Thursday, October 6, 2016
Houston, TX Friday, October 14, 2016
Philadelphia, PA Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Minneapolis, MN Tuesday, November 1, 2016
St. Louis, MO Thursday, November 10, 2016
Seattle, WA Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Los Angeles, CA       Friday, November 18, 2016

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated August 19 – Updated Search Tools

The S&L News Brief of August 19, 2016, announced that USAC’s Search Commitments tool for FY2016 has been designed with a look and feel similar to the tool used for FY 2015 and previous funding years.  Wave 9 funding, released last Friday, is already available by state.

USAC also indicated that it had changed the web addresses, but not the format nor operation, of three of its other search tools.

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.