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October 12, 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.

Wave 24 for FY 2020 was released on Thursday, October 8th for a total of $26.8 million.  Cumulative commitments are $1.73 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has now funded 90% of the FY 2020 applications representing 62% of the requested funding.

There is an open question as to the legality of using E-rate funds to fund off-campus Internet services for remote learners.  FCC Chairman Pai’s position is that the statutory language on which E-rate is based provides funding only for on-campus use.  But the Chairman also recognizes the importance of supporting remote learners and has initiated several programs aimed at doing just this.  In letters to many Senators last week, Chairman Pai laid out his position and reviewed the actions that the Commission has taken to date.  A common version of his Senate letters states:

FCC Chairman Pai’s Position on E-Rate Support for Remote Learning part 1
FCC Chairman Pai’s Position on E-Rate Support for Remote Learning part 2
FCC Chairman Pai’s Position on E-Rate Support for Remote Learning part 3
FCC Chairman Pai’s Position on E-Rate Support for Remote Learning part 4

Upcoming E-Rate Dates:

October 12     Nomination deadline for six USAC Board members including one school representative (see our newsletter of August 17th).
October 16 Second Form 471 application window for FY 2020 closes at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
October 22 First in a series of interactive E-rate training sessions conducted by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (“SETDA”).  For a full schedule and registration details, see E-Rate Training Series: Ask the State Experts.

Service Provider Audits:

Each year, USAC conducts a series of audits — both random and directed — on E-rate applicants and service providers.  When service providers are audited, questions are typically directed to the vendors’ clients as well to confirm services provided, discounts given, and non-discounted payments made.  Generally these are straight-forward requests that can be easily answered.  In one recent case, applicants were asked for the following information concerning FY 2017 funding:

  1. Please provide a description of the services that you received under this FRN.
  2. Were the services that you received consistent with those that the service provider billed?  If not, please explain.
  3. Were the services that you received consistent with your contract with the service provider?  If not, please explain.
  4. Were any of the services that you received under this contract ineligible for E-rate support?  If so, please describe.
  5. Please provide your Funding Year 2017 discount percentage for this FRN.
  6. Did the service provider pay you for SLP reimbursements by check or by crediting your service bill?
  7. Please list the receipt dates and amounts of all payments you received under this FRN.
  8. Have you made all payments to the service provider for the non-discounted portion of the service bills?

Streamlined BEAR Processing, cont.:

As reported in our previous newsletter, USAC's Schools and Libraries News Brief of October 2, 2020 indicated that USAC was modifying its invoice review system so that multi-line item BEARs will henceforth be processed on a line-by-line basis.  This means that portions of some BEARs can be paid out more quickly while other line items are still being reviewed.  The News Brief provided an example of a line status table that will be included in BEAR Notification Letters mailed to applicants.  As shown in the example below, line status data will also be provided in Block 2 of the online BEAR Invoice report.

E-rate Block 2 line item information per Funding Request Number

USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of October 9, 2020, provides answers to additional questions concerning FY 2020 second window applications and their processing.  These FAQs are summarized below.

Question:     It appears that the second window Form 471 I filed has just been canceled.  Why?
Answer:    USAC is working with applicants to minimize the need to track additional FRNs submitted in the second window.  Wherever possible, USAC will try to combine related funding requests from the first and second windows into single FRNs that can be more easily processed for invoicing purposes.  Applicants will need to pay particular attention to RAL modifications, service substitutions, and Revised Funding Commitment Decision Letters (“RFCDLs”).
 
Question:  I filed a large application (consortium or school district) during the original FY 2020 filing window, but only some of the recipients of service on the original application are seeking additional bandwidth in the second FY 2020 filing window.  How should I file?
Answer: 

USAC recommends that you refile the entire (expanded) FRN.  USAC asks that the FRN narrative include the following information:

  • List of the sites that are requesting the additional bandwidth
  • Details of the costs for the sites that are requesting the additional bandwidth
  • Price per Mbps for the sites that are requesting the additional bandwidth
     
Question:     If I had to open a new site due to COVID-19, and that site is an annex to an existing school, can I request additional bandwidth for the annex?
Answer: Yes, as long as the annex is considered to be part of the existing school and it meets all of the other requirements to request the additional bandwidth for the second FY 2020 filing window.
 
Question: I filed for high-speed internet access services during the original window but did not request bids for Leased Lit Fiber.  Now I need to migrate to a lit fiber service for additional bandwidth.  Do I have to post a Form 470 for Leased Lit Fiber?
Answer: No.  You can cite to the original Form 470 on your second FY 2020 filing window funding request.

Note:  The waiver of the competitive bidding requirements only applies to additional bandwidth requested for FY 2020 (i.e., services received through June 30, 2021).  If you need the higher bandwidth service beyond FY 2020, you will need to rebid the service for FY 2021 (see our discussion of the Kalamazoo Order precedent in our newsletter of October 5th).

The News Brief also encourages users to Share Your E-rate User-Experience System Ideas.