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May 18, 2020

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.

FY 2019:

USAC released Wave 59 for FY 2019 on Wednesday, May 13th.  Three large applicants were funded for a total of $26.2 million.  Cumulative commitments through May 13th are $2.32 billion. 

FY 2020:

Wave 2 for FY 2020 was released on Thursday, May 14th for a total of $31.9 million.  Cumulative commitments through May 14th are $713 million. 

Efforts continue in both the Senate and the House to enact legislation to enable and fund hardware and services in support of remote learning, particularly for students without access to affordable Internet service (see out newsletter of May 4th).  Last week, the House passed its fourth COVID‑19 bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (“HEROES”) Act.  Most importantly, the Act would provide $1.5 billion in funding through the E-rate Program to provide connectivity and devices, such as hotspots, to students, schools and libraries for use both at home and in the classroom.  Additionally, the HEROES Act provides $4 billion in Internet subsidies for low-income households and to suppliers providing connecting devices.  It also codifies the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

This week will see the culmination of a broad effort by over a thousand educational organizations urging Congressional support.  The effort is spearheaded by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (“SHLB”) and the State E-Rate Coordinators’ Alliance (“SECA”), together with a detailed needs analysis by the E-rate consulting firm Funds For Learning.  The coalition’s letter to Congress includes proposed legislative language in the form of a draft “E-rate to the Home” bill.  The key provisions in the bill (if enacted) would provide:

  • One-time emergency funding of $5.25 billion through the FCC’s E-rate Program (as modified) for home broadband service, network equipment, end-user equipment (including laptops or tablets), and cybersecurity measures.
  • Procedural details to ensure:
    • Explicit allowances for schools and libraries to extend their existing E-rate networks to serve the surrounding community.
    • Service provider neutrality to allow participation by all broadband providers.
    • Funding caps at the applicant level to allow planning certainty for schools and libraries.
    • Retroactive funding back to March 13th to reimburse applicants having already undertaken necessary actions.
    • Streamlined and expedited application review aimed at supporting remote learning by this fall.

Earlier Congressional proposals to fund remote learning have been encouraged by the educational community.  What is unique in the “E-rate to the Home” initiative is:  (a) the explicit support by schools, libraries, states, and educational interest groups; (b) a well-supported analysis of the financial need; and (c) an explicit implementation process incorporating minor modifications to the successful E-rate Program.  Hopefully, Congress will listen.

USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of May 15, 2020 reminds applicants, who have been funded for FY 2020 and who will next be filing Form 486s, that they will be certifying compliance with the Children’s Internet Protect Act (“CIPA”).  The News Brief reviews the following key points:

  • The three basic CIPA requirements:
    1. Internet Safety Policy.
    2. Technology protection measure (i.e., filtering).
    3. Policy adoption via public notice and meeting.
    Note:  For additional information on these requirements, including a sample Internet Safety Policy, see our CIPA Overview and Resources.
  • The necessity of certifying compliance with CIPA.
  • The timing of CIPA compliance.
  • Documenting compliance with CIPA.

Last Friday’s News Brief also provides guidance for applicants missing the April 29th application filing window and needing to submit out-of-the-window waivers to the FCC.  In recent years, the FCC has routinely granted late-filed waivers for those applications filed within 14 days of the actual close of the window (i.e., by May 13th this year).  Waivers for late-filings beyond this date have historically required demonstrations of extraordinary circumstances — a definition of which may or may not include serious COVID-19-related incidents this year.