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September 7, 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 16 for FY 2015 will be released on Monday, September 14th. 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 15 is $1.51 billion.

Funding for FY 2015 began slowly this spring because of the delayed close of the application window and more detailed Form 471 requirements (including both Category 1 and Category 2 requests), but the pace of application approvals picked up this summer. At this point, USAC calculates that it is within 100 completed applications of where it was with FY 2014 applications at this point last year. otal funding, however, is still about $300 million below last year’s level. USAC has set a target for completing all “workable” applications (those not awaiting applicant documentation or requiring special review) by September 24th.

This article is the seventh in a series of updates on USAC’s new online E-rate portal system, the “E-rate Productivity Center” or “EPC” (pronounced “Epic”). he EPC portal will ultimately be used for all electronic E-rate news, contacts, and filings. Most immediately, EPC must be used sby 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. here are changes — and/or new things we’re learning — weekly. his week’s update — including a correction — is as follows:

  1. Last week’s newsletter of August 31, 2015, incorrectly indicated that Form 470 RFPs could not be downloaded within EPC. Actually, they can. he trick is to know where to look and how to click on the correct links.

    The following steps, while specific to the downloading of RFPs, may suggest more generally how EPC links are configured. Most importantly, we have found that a left-click on a hot link often brings up a different new web page than would a right-click to open a new tab or window. EPC appears to be predominately left-click-oriented.

    The best way to find a specific Form 470 is to start with the “Search and Export Certified FCC Forms 470” function under the “Actions” tab. his allows searches by posting date, applicant type, service types, and state (up to 5 at a time). Note the following:
    1. The resulting search result shows Form 470s by “Service Function” (listed 20 per page). Because many Form 470s include multiple “Service Functions,” a Form 470 may be listed multiple times. his is not too difficult to use now, but will become more burdensome as the number of Form 470s increases. Searching through multiple result pages can be simplified somewhat by clicking on a column heading and sorting the list accordingly.
    2. To go directly to a specific Form 470, click on the Form 470 number.
      1. If there are multiple entries for the same Form 470, clicking on any of the duplicated Form 470 numbers will work.
      2. Hint: To retain access to the search list for subsequent reference, right-click on the Form 470 to open it in a new tab or window. A left-click will display the Form 470, but the “Back” arrow will not restore the list if needed. In that case, the search will have to be reinitiated.
    3. Opening the “Applicant Name” link instead displays basic applicant information. Any Form 470s that an applicant has posted can then be accessed by first clicking on “FCC Forms 470” in the upper left-hand corner, and then on the listed “Application Number.”
    4. Finding a downloadable RFP, if applicable, is a little more confusing.
      1. The original search list includes an “RFP” column indicating “Yes” or “No” for each “Service Function.”  In either case, the Form 470, as initially displayed, includes an active “View RFP Documents” link under the “Associated RFP” column — regardless of whether or not there is an RFP.
      2. A right-click on the “View RFP Documents” link simply opens up a new tab or window with another copy of the same Form 470.
      3. A left-click on the “View RFP Documents” link, however, displays a slightly different version of the same Form 470. he critical difference between the first and second versions of the Form 470 is the addition of a short section labeled “Service Request RFP Documents” inserted between the “Services Requested” and “Technical Contact Information” sections.

        If there are no RFPs, this is noted in the new section.

        If there is one or more RFPs, links are provided to the document(s). In this case, either a left-click or a right-click brings up the RFP in a new window.
    5. USAC has an online applicant user guide for Searching FCC Forms 470, as well as a guide for Filing FCC Form 470.

    The other way to find and view a Form 470 is to use the “FCC Forms 470” listing under the “Records” tab. his list includes all Form 470s submitted since EPC went live in early July (slightly over 100 so far), but individual Form 470s are identified only by their 9-digit numbers (with no RFP indication). Displaying an individual Form 470 proceeds as discussed above. Left-click on a “View RFP Documents” link to display the additional RFP section and to determine if there is or is not at least one RFP.

  2. As also discussed last week, the Search Tools section of the regular, non-EPC, SLD website provides different Form 470 display and download tools. If the Form 470 number is known, access to FY 2016 RFPs is easy. Searching for a specific Form 470, however, is difficult. USAC has indicated that the non-EPC FY 2016 Form 470 search tools are expected to be significantly enhanced later this month.
  3. In planning for the FY 2016 application window, it is important to recognize that all discount rate data will be coordinated in the new EPC portal on a school-by-school or district-by-district basis. his means that discount rates for consortia and libraries will ultimately be determined by the student and NSLP data resident in the school and district EPC accounts. he objective is to use consistent discount rates across all application types. his has two critical implications, namely:
    1. Individual schools and/or districts belonging to consortia, which do not file their own applications, will be required to establish EPC accounts with the appropriate discount rate data.
    2. For the most part, discount rate data from FY 2015 applications have already been captured within EPC. As a result, consortia and libraries can submit Form 471 applications using this data — and USAC can review those applications — without waiting for the underlying schools and/or districts to provide updated data. What this means, however, is that once USAC receives and validates new data for FY 2016, there may be post-funding changes — hopefully small — to consortium and library discount rates. his is likely to be an interesting experience for many, including USAC.

FCC Appeal Decision Watch:

The FCC issued another monthly set of precedent-based decisions in Public Notice DA 15-983, including:

  1. Dismissed four filings characterized by the applicants as requests for waiver, but which the FCC determined were requests for review. Under current E-rate rules, a request for review (often called an “appeal”) of a USAC decision must first be made to USAC. A request for a waiver of an E-rate rule — and this can often be a fine distinction — can be made directly to the FCC.
  2. Dismissed as moot one request for review for which USAC had already approved the underlying request.
  3. Granted requests for review or waivers for:
    1. Fifty requests for invoice deadline extensions (involving FY 2012 applications) filed less than 12 months late.
    2. Four waivers for late-filed Form 471 applications submitted within 14 days of the close of the window (a standard FCC waiver condition).
    3. Five requests to allow the installation of Internal Connections hardware from suppliers other than the equipment vendors. Until clarified by the FCC, USAC had previously interpreted E-rate rules as requiring that equipment purchase and installation be covered by the same contract.
  4. Denied requests for review or waivers for:
    1. One procurement appeal involving an inadequate Form 470, violation of the 28-day bidding rule, and lack of a legally binding agreement.
    2. Four requests for invoice deadline extensions filed less than 12 months late.
    3. Ten additional requests for invoice deadline extensions filed more than 12 months late.

      Note the distinction between the FCC’s decision on invoice deadline extension requests approved (3.a above) and these two sets of denials (4.b and 4.c). he FCC makes a clear distinction between requests filed before vs. after the 12 month point, requiring different standards for approval. Within 12 months, the applicant must demonstrate a “reasonable basis” for the delay; after 12 months, the applicant must demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances.”
    4. Six waivers for late-filed Form 471 applications not submitted within 14 days of the close of the window nor presenting “special circumstances” justifying waivers.
    5. One request to reinstate cancelled funding requests that the FCC determined was “purposely canceled”, presumably as opposed to have been canceled in error.
    6. One request for review and/or waiver involving the lack of a legally binding agreement.
    7. Seven untimely filed requests for review submitted outside of the normal 60-day appeal window.
    8. One request to amend an application “to remove entities with lower discount rates from applications so as to raise the applicant’s average discount rate above the funding threshold.”  Specifically, the applicant, having filed an FY 2012 application for Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections at a district-wide average of 88% had sought to remove all sub-90% schools from the calculation after finding that the Priority 2 threshold for that year had been set at 90% — a nice try leading to an unsurprising FCC decision.

EPC Webinar September 10th:

USAC will be conducting an introductory one-hour webinar on the new E-rate Productivity Center (“EPC”) at 2:00 p.m. eastern daylight time on Thursday, September 10th. Registration is available online.

Non-Recurring Service Delivery Deadline for FY 2014:

The non-recurring service delivery deadline for FY 2014 is September 30, 2015. At least in the past, this deadline has applied most commonly to the installation of Internal Connections equipment — services that were not funded at any discount level for FY 2013 or FY 2014. However, the September 30th deadline also applies to the installation portion of new Priority 1 services. If an applicant has a Priority 1 service approved for FY 2014, that approval will not cover any monthly recurring charges incurred after June 30, 2015, but non-recurring charges incurred between July 1 and September 30, 2015, would be covered. Requests to extend the September 30th service delivery deadline, due to circumstances beyond the applicants’ or service providers’ control, should be submitted on or before the September 30th deadline.

The S&L News Brief of September 4, 2015, is the fifth in a series of News Briefs discussing the basic process of filing a Form 470 for FY 2016. Part 1 discussed setting up an EPC account and beginning a Form 470. Part 2 and Part 3 covered requesting Category 1 and Category 2 services, respectively.  Part 4 reviewed the option for specifying a separate technical contact and/or identifying any state or local procurement requirements.

Last Friday’s News Brief discusses the review and certification of a completed Form 470.

Three important points should be noted:

  1. A Form 470 for FY 2016 can be filed only through USAC’s new E-rate Productivity Center (“EPC”). o do so, an applicant must have an established EPC portal account.
  2. If a Form 470 is to be associated with an RFP, the RFP must be uploaded into EPC before the Form 470 is certified. he posting of an RFP in EPC is in addition to any separate RFP posting that may be required by state or local procurement rules.

Unlike earlier years, a Form 470 may no longer be posted first — to start the 28-day procurement clock — and certified later. Under EPC, a Form 470 can be prepared by other EPC account users, but it must be certified by an authorized signer as a part of the submission process. If the posting date of the Form 470 (and associated RFPs, if applicable) is critical, an authorized signer must be available on that day — and must have a valid EPC account password. (Remember that EPC passwords must be reset at least every 60 days.)