Collapse All

October 31, 2016


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 (516-801-7810), or through our Contact Us web form. Additional E-rate information is located on the E-Rate Central website.

FY 2016:

Wave 18 for FY 2016, released last Monday, totaled $57.8 million.  Cumulative national funding through Wave 18 is $833 million.  Wave 19 is scheduled for release this Monday, October 31st.

Reporting on its challenging system problems at last week’s meeting of the USAC Board’s Schools and Libraries Committee, USAC indicated that, it still had 16,000 applications pending as of September 30th.  By last Monday’s funding wave, pending applications total approximately $2.5 billion — roughly three times the funding commitments to date.

FY 2015:

USAC will release Wave 68 for FY 2015 on Thursday, November 3rd.  Cumulative funding through Wave 67 is $3.31 billion.

Extended Invoice Deadlines:

The FCC issued a Public Notice (DA 16-1234) late Friday extending the FY 2015 recurring service Invoice Deadline Extension Request (“IDER”) filing deadline from Friday, October 28th, to Monday, October 31st.  The extra extension was the result of system problems experienced Friday morning preventing the filing of IDERs —obviously a critical problem on the last day of the invoice window that was not fixed until midday.

Note that one of the concluding sentences in the FCC’s Public Notice indicated that the “invoice deadline” was being extended.  Subsequently, the FCC reportedly clarified that only the IDER deadline, not the invoice deadline itself, was extended to Monday.  USAC’s Special Edition News Brief, issued shortly after the FCC notice, focused only on the IDER extension.

As of Saturday, however, USAC’s Data Retrieval Tool (“DRT”) was indicating that the “Last Date to Invoice” on FY 2015 FRNs, previously shown as 10/28/2016, now shows 10/31/2016.  Maybe the “Extra Day” extension — actually three days if you count the weekend — applies to both invoices and IDERs.

Our advice is to be safe rather than sorry.  Anyone who missed Friday’s invoice deadline should file IDERs on Monday before filing their invoices.

Tracking Invoice Extensions:

Normally, one way to confirm an extension of the invoicing deadline is to query the online table in USAC’s FRN Extension Status tool.  At the moment, however, that tool is not available to check FRNs for FY 2015 because so many FRN extensions have been filed and granted (well over 20,000) that the maximum size of tool’s display buffer has been exceeded.  The error message, as shown using Chrome (which is more explicit than the IE error), is:

FRN Extension Status Response Buffer Error

We expect the buffer error to be fixed shortly.  In the interim, the two remaining sources for confirming current invoicing deadlines are (a) the DRT (noted in the preceding article), and (b), if used carefully, the IDER feature in the online BEAR system.  To use the BEAR system (see the following illustration):

Step 1:    Click on the “Deadline Extension” tab.

Step 2:    Search for the FRN using the “Find FRN” button.

Step 3:    Once the FRN data is displayed, check the current “Last Date to Invoice.”

Step 4:    If the invoice deadline has already been extended to 02/27/2017, as in the example, do not click the “Submit” button to request another.

USAC Invoice Extension Request

FRN Status Tool – Phase II:

USAC’s FRN Status Tool (FY2016) is this year’s equivalent of our old statistical friend, the Data Retrieval Tool (“DRT”), both of which provide extensive funding data.  The DRT provides data for funding years 1998–2015.  The new FRN Status Tool provides data on FY 2016 and, presumably, will be used for future years.  (Note: For purposes of this article, we will use “FST” to distinguish the new tool from the old DRT.  USAC, however, may still use the “DRT” acronym.)

The early version of the FST, released last month, contained a limited number of data fields compared to the DRT.  The FST - Phase II, which became active late last week, is a significantly more robust tool.  It works similarly to the DRT, but contains even more data fields.  A complete list of the FST data fields can be found in the FRN Status Tool Instructions.  Examples of some of the more useful new fields include:

  • PIA review status field
  • EPC Account Administrator
  • State and library codes
  • Service provider SPAC status
  • Contract dates
  • FRN and 471 comments

Upcoming 2016 E-Rate Deadlines:

October 31 New extended IDER, and perhaps invoice, deadlines for FY 2015 recurring services (see above).
October 31 The Form 486 deadline for FY 2016 funding committed in Waves 1–2 is this Monday. More generally, the Form 486 deadline is 120 days from the FCDL date or the service start date (often July 1st), whichever is later. This means that Form 486 deadlines for funding commitments received in later waves will follow at roughly one week intervals, including the following November deadlines:

Wave 3        11/07/2016
Wave 4        11/14/2016
Wave 5        11/21/2016
Wave 6        11/28/2016

November 3   The FCC deadline for submitting comments on the Boulder Valley and Microsoft petitions regarding off-campus use of existing E-rate supported connectivity (see DA 16-1051 and our newsletter of September 26th).

Post-Deadline BEAR Denials:

Applicants (or service providers) who filed invoices by the deadline, but subsequently find that their invoices are denied or reduced for correctable reasons, will have  problems unless they requested, and are still within, the additional 120-day extension period.  Rejected or reduced invoices cannot simply be corrected and resubmitted once the invoice deadline has past.

The solution to this type of problem is to file an appealnot a waiver — with USAC within 60 days.  The distinction between an “appeal” and a “waiver” is critical.  This is because:

  1. USAC is permitted to handle appeals of its decisions, but cannot waive the FCC’s rules.  In most cases, involving invoice corrections, USAC will accept new information or invoice corrections submitted on appeal, and will reissue/process the corrected invoices.
  2. Only the FCC can accept requests to waive its invoice deadlines — waiver requests that the FCC has routinely been denying (absent truly “extraordinary” circumstances).  Two more such denials were issued last week (see item 3.c in the following article).

FCC Decision Watch:

The FCC issued its latest monthly set of “streamlined,” precedent-based decisions in Public Notice DA 16-1232.  In summary, the FCC:

  1. Dismissed
    1. Two requests for review that properly should have been filed first with USAC.
    2. One request for review on which USAC had already acted as requested.
    3. Four requests for waivers failing to comply with the FCC’s basic filing requirements.
    4. Two Petitions for Reconsideration not identifying additional reasons for review.
  2. Granted
    1. Five requests for review permitting the applicants to remove ineligible firewall and network management equipment from their funding requests (see also 3.a below).
    2. One Petition for Reconsideration and one request for review regarding the 28-day competitive bidding rule.
    3. Two waivers for late-filed applications submitted within 14 days of the deadline.
    4. Four requests for review involving ministerial and/or clerical errors including a missing item on an equipment source list, a discounted (instead of pre-discount) price, a wrong category of service, and a wrong term of service.
    5. One request for review concerning necessary budget resources.
    6. Two requests for review of the signed contract requirement.
    7. Three waivers of the 60-day appeal deadline when the appeal was filed “only a few days late.”
    8. One request for review (partially granted) in which the FCC determined that a lit fiber WAN request was eligible as Priority 1 except for the Priority 2 portion running between two schools on the same property.  Interestingly, the FCC denied the Priority 2 portion even though this applicant was eligible for such funding in FY 2006.

  3. It is important to note that this decision was for an earlier funding year application.  It does not reflect the FCC’s new definitions of “campus and geographically contiguous grounds,” or the current distinction between Category 1 and Category 2 services (see our newsletter of September 19th).
  4. Denied
    1. Two requests for review involving Priority 2 equipment in earlier funding years.  The FCC confirmed that the following products and services were ineligible:
      1. “[N]etwork maintenance, monitoring, and management and coordination of network status” services — many of which may be eligible today under the Management of Internal Broadband Services category.
      2. “[A]nti-virus and anti-spam software and intrusion protection and intrusion prevention devices, and distinguishing eligible firewall services intended to prevent unauthorized access to a school or library's network, from intrusion protection and intrusion prevention devices (and anti-virus and anti-spam software) which monitor, detect, and deter threats to a network from external and internal attacks.”.
    2. One request for review involving an ineligible entity.
    3. Two more waiver requests for invoice deadline extensions.
    4. Ten requests for Form 471 window waivers for applications filed more than 14 days late, absent “special circumstances.”
    5. One request for review to correct an alleged ministerial and/or clerical error.
    6. Four late-filed requests for review.

File Along with Me:

A link to last week’s “File Along with Me” posting is 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.      Form 498 and the BEAR Method (Part 1): Register Your Bank Account

Two useful tips:

  1. EPC asks for the bank account number first, then the bank routing number.  Most other forms requesting bank information ask for the routing number first.
  2. For telephone assistance on Form 498 problems, call the invoicing hotline (888-641-8722 – option #5), rather than the regular Client Service Bureau (888-203-8100).

USAC Fall Training Schedule:

The locations and dates for USAC’s remaining regional trainings are listed below.  For registration information, see Trainings & Outreach.

Minneapolis, MN Tuesday, November 1, 2016 (waiting list only)
St. Louis, MO Thursday, November 10, 2016 (waiting list only)
Seattle, WA Wednesday, November 16, 2016 (waiting list only)
Los Angeles, CA       Friday, November 18, 2016 (waiting list only)

Slides for the Minneapolis training have been posted on the USAC website.

USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of October 28, 2016, discusses the following Category 2 budget topics:

  1. Determining the first year of a five-year budget.
  2. Calculating the Category 2 budget for a school.
  3. Calculating the Category 2 budget for a library.
  4. Non-instructional facilities — NIFs are ineligible for Category 2 funding and do not have budgets.
  5. Allocating Category 2 budget amounts between entities for shared products and services.