Collapse All

June 28, 2021

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 11 for FY 2021 was released on Thursday, June 24th, for a total of $72.3 million.  Cumulative commitments are $1.45 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has now funded 80% of the FY 2021 applications representing 49% of the requested funding.

FCC Releases FAQs:

With the Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”) application window for 2021-2022 opening this Tuesday, June 29th, the FCC released FAQs and held a webinar last week addressing some of the most common questions facing potential ECF applicants.  As discussed in our newsletter of June 21st, the most important issue concerned the definition of “unmet needs.”  This definition is critical to understanding which students, staff, and library patrons are eligible for ECF-funded, off-campus, internet services and connected devices.

Note:  The FCC’s FAQ is a multi-paged document.  When viewing it online, be sure to use the arrows near the bottom of each page to move from one page to another.

We encourage applicants to carefully read the FCC’s FAQs — and check frequently for additions.  The following four FAQs deal most specifically with “unmet needs:”

 Emergency Connectivity Fund unmnet needs FAQ

Emergency Connectivity Fund unmnet needs FAQ

Emergency Connectivity Fund unmnet needs FAQ

Defining, Surveying, and Documenting Unmet Needs – Part II:

Without a lot of initial guidance, our newsletter of June 21st began a discussion of how to define, survey, and document “unmet needs.”  What last week’s FCC FAQs and webinar indicate to us is that the FCC will be reasonably flexible — at least during the application phase — in relying on applicant certifications of needs.  The FCC clearly intends ECF to be an emergency connectivity program, not an optimal 1:1 connectivity program.

What also appears clear is that USAC and FCC reviews of applicant funding requests will occur in three stages:  application review, invoice review, and post-disbursement review (i.e., audits).  The focus of application reviews will be on the reasonableness of the costs and quantities of services and equipment.  Well-designed surveys need only estimate the number of students, staff, and patrons to be served during the initial 2021-2022 period.  Actual purchases, when invoiced, however, should be trackable to specific individuals.  This could mean that purchases of equipment may have to be staged.  It appears that advanced purchases, if initially held in reserve, cannot be invoiced until equipment is ready for deployment or actually deployed.

To be audit-ready, should that need ultimately arise, we recommend that applicants seek certification of need from the individual beneficiaries of equipment and/or services.  The ECF rules already require tangible certifications from library patrons.  There is no reason that schools and school districts can’t take a similar approach.

The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (“ECF”) Resources section of the E-Rate Central website contains several forms that ECF applicants may find useful.

  • The ECF Household 2021-2022 Survey can be used to survey student households to determine the “Unmet Needs” of students who will require new internet services or connected devices for the 2021-2022 school year.  This survey may be used as the basis for estimating new student needs during first funding window.  When signed, which should be required of any family receiving equipment or services, the form provides certification of actual need.
  • The ECF Household Retroactive Survey can be used to survey and document the “Unmet Needs” for internet services and connected devices actually provided to students during the period March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.  This will be useful if a second ECF application window is opened to cover retroactive expenditures.  To the extent that internet services for these students will continue into the 2021-2022 school year, this survey will also support those ongoing needs.
  • The ECF Inventory Tracker can be used to provide the detailed tracking of applicant-provided internet services and connected devices needed by individual students, school staff, or library patrons as required by ECF program rules.

A fourth form in the ECF Resources section, the ECF Internet Availability Survey, can be used to determine and document instances in which internet services are not commercially-available from local ISPs.  This can serve as documentation for special construction projects by ECF applicants.

Upcoming E-Rate Dates:

June 29     Opening date for the initial application window of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”).  The 45-day window will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, August 13th.
July 2 Form 486 deadline for FY 2020 covering funding committed in Wave 45.  More generally, the Form 486 deadline is 120 days from the FCDL date or the service start date (typically July 1st), whichever is later.  Upcoming Form 486 deadlines are:
Wave 46                 07/09/2021
Wave 47                 07/16/2021
Wave 48                 07/26/2021
July 6 Due date for reply comments on Comcast’s FCC gift rule waiver request to provide its Lift Zone initiative to establish remote learning centers in seven selected library systems (see Comcast waiver request and FCC comment notice DA 21-597). 

FCC Extends Special Construction Deadline:

With continued concerns regarding pandemic delays, the FCC extended the special construction service delivery deadline one additional year to June 30, 2022 for all FY 2019 and FY 2020 applicants with deadlines that expire on June 30, 2021 or during calendar year 2021 (see DA 21-726).

Interagency Coordination on Broadband Deployment:

The FCC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), announced an interagency agreement to share information about, and coordinate the distribution of, federal broadband deployment funds.  In accordance with the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the agencies agreed to consult with one another and share information about the distribution of new funds from the FCC’s high-cost programs that support broadband buildout in rural areas, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs, and programs administered or coordinated by NTIA.

Although not specifically mentioned in the agreement, an interagency approach might also come into play should larger broadband funding be approved, as proposed, in the infrastructure bill currently before Congress.

USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of June 25, 2021, covers the three topics discussed briefly below.

Update on the FY 2022 Form 470:

As discussed in our newsletter of June 21st, the FY 2022 version of the Form 470 will be available in EPC later this week on July 1st.  The News Brief describes the following format changes in the new version:

  • Separate screens for Category One and Category Two service requests.
  • Tiered guiding statements to assist users in their selections for service and function types.
  • Alert messages and requirements for special circumstances related to certain function types.
  • Save & Create Another Request, Save Request, and Cancel buttons added for entering service requests.
  • Shortcut to create a related Basic Maintenance request under Internal Connections.
  • Additional text added to Internal Connections drop-down options that include licenses and other associated options.

ECF Deployment in One Portal:

As of Tuesday, June 29, 2021, USAC plans to deploy a new ECF section to its One Portal platform.  Applicants, who previously had access to EPC and/or the BEAR Form, will see a dashboard with multiple system options, including ECF, when they log in to One Portal.

Equipment Disposal and Transfer Reminders:

The News Brief reminds applicants that eligible products and services purchased with E-rate program discounts cannot be sold, resold, or transferred for money or any other thing of value, with the following exceptions:

  • Effective January 1, 2011, applicants could dispose of, donate, or trade equipment five years after the date the equipment was installed.
  • Applicants can transfer equipment to other eligible entities three years after the date the equipment was purchased.
  • Applicants can transfer equipment to other eligible entities less than three years after the date the equipment was purchased if the location of the equipment is temporarily or permanently closed.  These types of transfers must currently be reported to USAC on a Form 500.

With regard to transfers, USAC notes that the reporting requirement changes July 1st according to the following chart:

E-rate Equipment Disposal and Transfer Reminders: