Collapse All

May 23, 2022

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.

E-Rate for FY 2022:

Wave 5 for FY 2022 was issued on Thursday, May 19th, for $98.1 million.  Cumulative commitments to date are $1.52 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has funded 78.6% of the FY 2022 applications representing 48.1% of the requested funding.

A special extended application window for new Tribal libraries closes later this week on May 26th (see DA 22‑231 and our newsletter of March 14th).

E-Rate for FY 2021:

Wave 55 for FY 2021 was issued on Wednesday, May 18th, for $2.3 million.  Cumulative commitments stand at $2.63 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has funded 98.7% of the FY 2021 applications representing 95.4% of the requested funding.

ECF for 2021-2023:

ECF Wave 15, was released on Tuesday, May 17th for $50.2 million.  As of Wave 15, total ECF commitments are $4.8 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has funded 95.7% of filed applications.  Authorized disbursements as of last Friday totaled $1.10 billion.

The third ECF application window closed on Friday, May 13th.  We expect that an indication of funding demand will be available later this week.  The FCC indicates that a minimum of $1 billion — our estimate is at least $2 billion — will be available to fund the same type of eligible equipment and services as in the original two windows but for delivery within the 18-month span from July 1, 2022, through December 31, 2023 (albeit capped at 12 months of service for recurring services).  For details, see DA 22-309 and/or our newsletter of March 28th.

For many years, particularly since the E-Rate Modernization Orders that added significant funding to the E-rate program, applicants have become accustomed to a lenient FCC policy routinely approving waivers for late-filed E-rate applications certified within 14 days of the close of the window.  For the past two years, waivers for still later-filed applications (typically within 30 days) have also been granted treating the pandemic-related causes as “special circumstances.”

The FCC has taken a similarly flexible waiver policy with regard to late ECF filings in the second application window.*  Based on both the E-rate and the ECF precedents, third window ECF applicants who missed the May 13th application window may presume that similar waivers will be granted again this time around if new third window ECF applications are filed within the 14‑day period ending this Friday, May 27th.

We caution that this 14-day “grace” period may not hold this time around.

To understand our concern, a little history is necessary for perspective.  All the late-filing waivers granted over the past decade stem from and reference the Academy of Math and Science Order (FCC 10-122) of 2010.**  This Order granted 97 waivers for applications filed within 14 days of the close of the window or were otherwise delayed due to “special circumstances.”  Not so well known is the fact that the same Order denied 158 requests for waiver not meeting these criteria.

Perhaps more importantly, it should be noted — and stressed — that the granting of waivers for all the late-filed applications that followed the Academy of Math and Science Order in no way disadvantaged funding for applicants that had filed their applications on time.  In particular, during recent years in which many late-filed waivers have been granted, extra E-rate funding was available to fully fund both timely-filed and waiver-approved applications.

It is highly likely that the demand for funding in the third ECF window, when added to the funding already approved or to be approved for the first two ECF windows, will exceed the program’s $7 billion statutory cap.  Actual ECF-3 funding request data should be available soon.  Assuming full funding is not available, the ECF rules specify that funding will be allocated based on a modified discount rate matrix.  As shown in the table below, the prioritization allocation process starts with funding for the highest discount applicants first then working down the modified discount chain until funding is depleted (see also our newsletter of March 28th).

Emergency Connectivity Fund modified discount rate matrix

This means that any significant demand from late-filed applications, if approved by waiver, would at some discount level eliminate funding for other applicants who had filed on time.  Suppose, for example, that the total demand from on-time applications was sufficient to fund down into the 75% rural discount band.  Were the FCC to grant late-filed application demand for $100 million (or so) for high discount applicants, the 75% rural band on-time applicants (and maybe some of the 80% urban band applicants as well) might not get funded.  Would this be fair?

At some point in the not so distance future, the FCC will need to decide on the fairness of depriving some on-time applicants of funding because of waivers given to higher-discount late filers.  Late-filing applicants in the third ECF window should not automatically assume that the FCC’s historic waiver policy is the governing precedent in an allocated funding environment.

Upcoming Dates:

May 26     Extended FY 2022 application window deadline for new Tribal libraries (see DA 22-231).
May 27 Form 486 deadline for FY 2021 covering funding committed in Wave 42.  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 43                      06/03/2022
Wave 44                      06/10/2022
May 27 Reply comments due on the FCC’s proposal to create an E-rate competitive bidding portal (FCC 21-124).
May 27 Beginning of the summer deferral period for PIA inquiries (see pp. 6-7 of the E-Rate News Brief referenced below).
May 31 The extended invoicing deadline for FY 2020 non-recurring services.
June 9 USAC’s E-rate services webinar for beginners.  Note: The E-Rate News Brief referenced below also includes links to the recordings and slide decks from USAC training sessions held earlier in April and May.

USAC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Newsletter of May 17, 2022, added one new FAQ to help clear up some confusion applicants experienced in answering the fourth unmet needs question on the revised ECF-3 Form 471 application.  The new FAQ reads as follows:

What information should we use to answer the fourth unmet needs survey question?

In response to the fourth unmet needs survey question about how many students will be provided a connected device, a broadband connection, or both a connected device and a broadband connection with the ECF Program funding requested, schools that applied during the third window needed to provide the number of students that they will provide connected devices, broadband connections, or both with the ECF funding requested during the third application filing window.  There was no need to report the number of students that were or will be provided equipment and/or services through a first or second window committed funding request on a third window application.  If you already responded with information that includes all three application windows, you may request to modify your unmet needs survey responses in the ECF Portal during the PIA review process or through a Post-Commitment Request if the funding request has been committed.

USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of May 19, 2022, discusses the following topics:

  • Responding to Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review questions in EPC
  • Overview of the Selective Review process
  • Summer Contact ("Summer Deferral") period starts May 27
  • Getting ready for invoicing

Note: The extended invoicing deadline for FY 2020 non-recurring services is May 31, 2022.

  • E-Rate training and recordings available on demand

*  Late-filed applications in the first ECF window were subsequently moved into the second ECF window without specifically requiring an FCC waiver.

**  As well as the earlier Bishop Perry Order (of 2006), Academy for Academic Excellence Order (of 2007), and the Acorn Public Library District Order (of 2008).