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August 31, 2015


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.

Wave 15 for FY 2015 will be released on Friday, September 4th. Funding for FY 2015 is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 services at all discount levels. Cumulative funding for FY 2015, as of Wave 14, is $1.40 billion.

This article is the sixth in a series of updates on USAC’s new online E-rate portal system, the “E-rate Productivity Center” or “EPC” (pronounced “Epic”). The EPC portal will ultimately be used for all electronic E-rate news, contacts, and filings. Most immediately, EPC must be used by all applicants seeking to file Form 470s for FY 2016. It is important, therefore, for applicants (and their consultants, if applicable) to establish their EPC accounts as early as possible in the FY 2016 application cycle.

The EPC system is still under development. There are changes — and/or new things we’re learning — weekly. This week’s update is as follows:

  1. Last week’s newsletter of August 24, 2015, discussed the difficulty of searching for FY 2016 Form 470 data within EPC or in using the non-EPC download tool. There is another feature of EPC that provides a partial solution to these problems.

    Instead of searching for Form 470s under the Records tab, you can use the more focused “Search and Export Certified FCC Forms 470” function under the Actions tab. This feature will generate a nice looking list of Form 470 records — showing both the posting dates and the applicant names — as selected by date range, type(s) of applicant, type(s) of service requested, and state(s). Note that the list may include multiple lines for a single Form 470 because each Service Function is listed separately.

    There is also a button to “Export Search Results.”  The export is a two-step process that first generates a Task with a link that, in turn, creates the same problematic four pipe-delimited Zip files as available in the non-EPC download tool. For service providers, in particular, one major problem with the Zip files is that none of them include data on either the form submission date or the Allowable Contract Date (“ACD”).

    Obtaining a single usable Form 470 file using the Actions tab approach— and admittedly this requires a reasonable amount of database manipulation — requires the following steps:
    1. Since the “Posted Date” is included in the initial search list, copy and paste that list into an Excel sheet and create an ACD column by adding 28 days to each posting date.
    2. Unpack the four Zip files to separate the pipe-delimited data into separate Excel columns. One good article on converting pipe-delimited files to Excel is How Can I View a ‘Pipe Delimited’ Excel File In A More Readable Format?
    3. Merge the five resulting Excel files into a single file based on Form 470 numbers.
  2. As discussed in last Friday’s S&L News Brief (see below), applicants using RFPs in their procurement process must upload those RFPs to USAC’s EPC website when filing their Form 470s — presumably for making those RFPs viewable through EPC. Although the RFP upload feature is fully functional, the RFP viewing feature is apparently not yet ready. The display of an individual Form 470 does show apparent links to RFP data. But these links, as currently configured, simply point back to another copy of the Form 470. We expect these RFP links to be fixed shortly.
  3. The basic instructions on the use of the new EPC system indicate that users within an account can be assigned the following three different levels of rights with regard to form creation:
    • View-only right
    • Partial right — to create, but not submit, forms
    • Full right — to create and submit forms
  4. There is, however, a higher level right given to the Account Administrator. The Administrator right is initially given to the individual who established the EPC account. For a school-oriented applicant, the Administrator right includes the critical ability to modify EPC account information including entities, enrollment, and NSLP data.
    Going forward, we expect at least two changes in the way rights are assigned or modified, including the following:
    1. Currently, once other users are added to an account, the initial Administrator can reassign the Administrator rights to another account employee — but not to an independent consultant. This is a major limitation that prevents either consultants or other account staff members from doing most of the day-to-day E-rate work that is required under the new EPC system. One way to eliminate this limitation would be to give much greater authority to full or partial right users, including consultants (if used) to manage account information. We understand that USAC is considering such a change to permit full or partial right users to modify account information, albeit requiring such modification to take effect only if initiated and/or approved by a full right user (or Administrator). For applicants using consultants to do most of their E-rate work, this would suggest that consultants become full right users.
    2. One important outstanding issue concerns the ability of State E-rate Coordinators to have broad access to applicant account information without requiring each individual applicant to add their State Coordinator(s) to their account. One approach currently being considered is to give State Coordinators blanket view-only rights to all public applicants within their states. Such applicants, should they choose to work with their State Coordinators on specific problems, could upgrade the Coordinators’ rights. Private applicants seeking assistance from State Coordinators would, if appropriate, have to specifically add the Coordinators to their user accounts. Within the EPC framework, State Coordinators may become actual or de facto consultants.

USAC Fall Applicant Training:

As in recent years, USAC will hold eight regional one-day applicant training sessions this fall. Registration at this point is assured at only three of the locations. The full training schedule with registration links is as follows:

Washington, DC October 2 – registration (including waiting list) is full
Tampa, FL October 8 – available only on a waiting list basis
Albuquerque, NM   October 13
Minneapolis, MN October 20 – registration limited
New Orleans, LA October 29 – available only on a waiting list basis
Los Angeles, CA November 5 – registration (including waiting list) is full
Philadelphia, PA November 10 – available only on a waiting list basis
Portland, OR November 16

Note also the announcement of a USAC webinar on September 10th concerning the new EPC system (see below). 

The S&L News Brief of August 28, 2015, includes the following notices:

  1. The FCC plans (DA 15-940) to update its IT system. For a week, beginning this coming Wednesday, many online FCC resources will be unavailable. As discussed in our last newsletter of August 24, 2015, many FCC deadlines — including E-rate appeals — will be extended accordingly.
  2. USAC will be conducting an introductory one-hour webinar on the new E-rate Productivity Center (“EPC”) on Thursday, September 10th. Registration will become available on the USAC website later this week.
  3. USAC reminded applicants issuing RFPs for FY 2016 that the RFP documents are now required to be uploaded to the USAC website as a part of the new EPC Form 470 filing process. Simply providing Form 470 links to other websites or to contact people are not sufficient. The News Brief indicates that the “entire RFP document or documents must be uploaded and available for viewing.”  However, as discussed above, note that the ability to view an uploaded RFP in EPC apparently has not yet been implemented.
  4. USAC has updated its Eligibility Table for Non-Traditional Education. The table has been reformatted and now includes state-by-state data on the eligibility of special education students for ages 3-12 and ages over 21. Users of certain browsers, who have recently visited the non-traditional education table, may have to clear their cache before seeing the updated table.