Collapse All

September 6, 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 21 for FY 2021 was released on Wednesday, September 1st, for a total of $83.6 million.  Cumulative commitments are $2.14 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has now funded 92% of the FY 2021 applications representing 71% of the requested funding.

The first 2021-2022 application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”) closed Friday, August 13th.  Applications received during the window totaled over $5 billion.  If USAC matches last spring’s early processing rate for regular FY 2021 applications, we would expect the first wave of ECF funding commitment decision letters (“FCDLs”) by mid-September.  The FCC’s target is to have USAC issue FCDLs for 50% of the workable applications within 60 days and 70% within 100 days.  A short second 2021-2022 ECF window will open September 28th (see our newsletter of August 30th).

OOW Waivers:

Questions have arisen as to the FCC’s likely treatment of Out-of-Window (“OOW”) applications filed after the first ECF window closed.  Traditionally, the FCC has routinely approved waivers for traditional E-rate applications filed within two weeks of the close of the window and USAC has already published waiver guidelines for submitting similar ECF waivers.  In its second ECF window announcement, however, the FCC characterized its actions as providing “support for the current school year in light of outstanding demand, including applications that were filed after the close of the initial application filing window, and resource challenges some schools faced with a summertime application filing window.”  One interpretation of the reference to late-filed applications in the first window is that the FCC will not waive the window deadline for late-filed applications.  Instead, the FCC could direct USAC to process those applications in the second window or simply suggest that those applicants refile in the second window.

From an applicant’s viewpoint, the disadvantage of having a late-filed (or refiled) first window application treated as a second window application is that there may not be enough ECF funding left in the second window to fully fund all new applications and that funding may be prioritized.

Until the FCC’s intentions for handling waivers of Out-of-Window first window applications are clarified, we reiterate the guidance in our newsletter of August 30th that applicants should file FCC waivers to have their late-filed applications considered in the first window and, receiving no guidance to the contrary, should refile their ECF applications in the second window.

Device Taxes:

Early reports on ECF PIA reviews indicated that the $400 device cap was being applied to the basic device price plus all applicable taxes.  We understand that the FCC has clarified that taxes, which are eligible, should be considered separate from the $400 cap.  We presume this means that should an applicant apply for funding on a $500 device with an 8% tax, USAC would henceforth approve funding for $432 (the $400 device cap plus the 8% tax).  PIA is reportedly revising early tax calculations.

CFDA Numbers:

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (“CFDA”) has historically provided a listing of all federal programs — identified by CFDA numbers often used for accounting purposes — available to state and local governments.  Online CFDA listings, however, have been transitioned to the beta.SAM.gov website (see CFDA Transition Frequently Asked Questions).  As shown below, the CFDA number for the ECF program is 32.009.

CFDA Numbers

Upcoming E-Rate Dates:

September 9 Form 486 deadline for FY 2020 covering funding committed in Wave 54.  More generally, the Form 486 deadline is 120 days from the FCDL date or from the service start date (typically July 1st), whichever is later.  Upcoming Form 486 deadlines are:
Wave 55            09/16/2021
Wave 56            09/23/2021
Wave 57            09/30/2021
September 27     Due date for initial comments to the FCC’s draft version of the Eligible Services List (“ESL”) for FY 2022 (DA 21-1062).  Reply comments are due by October 12th.
September 28 Opening of the second ECF application window for 2021-2022.  This shorter 15-day window closes October 13th.
September 30 General non-recurring service delivery deadline for FY 2020 and, under the FCC’s COVID extension, for FY 2019.
October 20 Nomination deadline for six USAC Board members including one school representative.

FCC Streamlined Decisions:

The FCC issued another set of “streamlined” precedent-based decisions (DA 21-1049) last week.  As with past streamlined decisions, applicants facing similar problems as those addressed in these decisions may garner useful information by carefully reading the additional FCC explanations found in the footnotes.  The original appeal and waiver requests can be found online in the FCC’s Search for Filings under Docket 02-6.

In August’s streamlined decisions, the FCC:

  1. Dismissed:
    1. Three Requests for Review that should have been filed initially with USAC.
    2. Two Requests for Waiver for which the applicants’ applications had already been approved or fully funded.
    3. One Petition for Reconsideration for which the petitioner’s request had already been fully considered and rejected.
  2. Granted:
    1. One Request for Waiver of the invoice deadline warranted by “extraordinary circumstances” involving the need for USAC to process an operational SPIN change.
    2. One Request for Waiver involving an incorrect start date on a Form 486.
    3. Nine Requests for Waiver for late-filed FY 2021 applications: (1) due to circumstances beyond the applicants’ control; (2) filed within 14 days of the close of the window; or (3), filed more than 30 days late due to COVID-related problems.
    4. Eleven Requests for Review and/or Waiver for ministerial and/or clerical Form 471 errors.
    5. Two Requests for Waiver for untimely filed appeals or a waiver request.
    6. One Request for Waiver for a USAC decision that was not issued until after the associated invoice deadline.
  3. Denied:
    1. Two Requests for Waiver for failure to file a Form 470.
    2. Two Requests for Waiver for invoice deadline extensions.
    3. Eight Requests for Waiver for late-filed Form 471 applications where petitioners failed to present justifications of special circumstances.
    4. One Request for Waiver for a late-filed Form 486.
    5. Three Requests for Review involving Form 470s that did not seek bids on the types of services later requested.
    6. Five Requests for Waiver involving untimely appeals or waiver requests.

USAC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Newsletter of August 31, 2021, indicates that service providers now have access to the ECF portal (see second FAQ below).  The newsletter also addresses the following frequently asked questions:

I can access the ECF Portal, but can’t file any forms – what can I do?
Short answer: Your Account Administrator must upgrade your permission level.

I am a service provider, have a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN), and need access to the ECF Portal. How do I get access to the ECF Portal?
Full answer: Service providers with access to the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal now have access to the ECF Portal. Log in to your account by visiting USAC.org and selecting the blue “Sign In” button. Once you have entered your credentials and completed the multifactor authentication, you will be taken to the OnePortal and should see a link for the ECF Portal.

I am a service provider and agreed to invoice USAC for equipment or services for ECF support on behalf of the applicant. Where do I submit the invoices?
Short answer: Invoicing will be available via the ECF Portal in the coming weeks.

How long will it take to hear back about my application?
Short answer: There is no exact timetable on application review.

Will I have visibility in the ECF portal for the committed version of my application?
Short answer: Yes.

Do approved applicants that receive recurring monthly services need to submit invoices within 60 days of each monthly invoice?
Short answer: No.  The critical deadline is August 29, 2022.

If the service provider is invoicing on behalf of the applicant, does it need a SPIN for ECF?
Short answer: Yes.

Can applicants change the make or model of their equipment after they file their applications?
Short answer: Yes.