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July 24, 2023


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 (516-801-7810), or through our Contact Us web form. Additional E-rate information is located on the E-Rate Central website.

E-Rate for FY 2023:

USAC issued Wave 13 for FY 2023 on Thursday, July 20th, for $68.3 million.  Total funding is now $1.69 billion.  At this point, USAC has already funded 87.5% of the originally submitted applications representing 57.3% of the dollars requested.

ECF for 2021-2023:

Total commitments for all three ECF windows are $6.76 billion.  USAC has funded 89.5% of the ECF applications representing 68.7% of the requested funding.

With unanimous Commissioner support at last week’s open meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (“R&O”) simplifying E-rate rules for Tribal libraries and, to a lesser extent, for other applicants.  As summarized in the FCC’s news release, the Tribal updates will:

  • Grant E-rate eligibility to Tribal College and University libraries that serve as public libraries in their communities.
  • Increase the maximum Category Two discount rate to 90% and the funding floor to $55,000 for Tribal libraries.
  • Adopt a formal definition of “Tribal” within the E-rate program to better identify Tribal applicants seeking E-rate funding.
  • Add a Tribal community representative to the USAC Board of Directors.
  • Direct USAC to provide increased outreach and training to Tribal applicants.

Providing relief for more than Tribal libraries alone the R&O would:

  • Create an exemption to the competitive bidding requirements for all libraries — but not schools — seeking E-rate support for Category Two services that total a pre-discount price of $3,600 or less per library per funding year.
  • Eliminate burdensome cost-allocation requirements for all applicants when:
    • At least 90% of an applicant’s internet service is used for eligible purposes.
    • A building’s internal cable network is not being used specifically for ineligible purposes (e.g., security cameras or dedicated voice services).
    • Equipment is cost-effectively shared with NIFs.

The FCC also adopted an accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) to seek comment on an even broader range of program simplifications that would benefit all E-rate applicants (see the second half of the article in our newsletter of July 3rd).

The combined R&O and the FNPRM (FCC 23-56) will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.  The initial comment period for the FNPRM will run for forty-five days after the Federal Register publication date with reply comments due thirty days later.

One disappointing aspect of the FCC’s open meeting discussion was that, although every Commissioner spoke positively about the R&O simplifications for Tribal libraries, there was nary a word concerning the accompanying FNPRM proposals seeking comments on broadly simplifying E-rate for all applicants.  Chairwoman Rosenworcel missed a golden opportunity to do so when she recounted a visit to a rural Tribal library and noted:

What stayed with me from this visit, however, was a binder by the desk of the head librarian.  It was bulky, chock filled with papers and it was labeled E-rate.  The binder made clear what conversations alone did not.  Tribal libraries like this one are working with so many constraints to figure out how to get broadband connections.

We have seen similar binders — fortunately now migrating to endless data files — in many E-rate applicant and consultant offices.  Complexities and constraints are the hallmark of all things E-rate and we hope to see fully addressed in the FNPRM.

Upcoming Dates:

July 27     USAC Form 470 webinar (registration).
All indications are that USAC will again, unfortunately, not be offering in-person E-rate training this year.  Those seeking broad E-rate training from USAC will have to make do with this and a series of other webinars and/or state-sponsored workshops.
July 28 The Form 486 deadline for FY 2022 Wave 50.  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 51           08/04/2023
Wave 52           08/11/2023
Wave 53           08/18/2023

The first Form 486 deadline for FY 2023, for FCDLs issued on or before July 1st — normally October 29th (which is a Sunday this year) — will be Monday, October 30, 2023.

Further FCC Chairwoman Action on Cybersecurity:

Unrelated to E-rate, but following closely after a proposal for a $200 million cybersecurity pilot program for schools and libraries (see our newsletter of July 17th), FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed another cybersecurity initiative to put in place the first-ever voluntary cybersecurity labeling program for connected smart devices.

The program’s objective would be to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, differentiate trustworthy products in the marketplace, and create incentives for manufacturers to meet higher cybersecurity standards.  The FCC has already filed a “U.S. Cyber Trust Mark” logo for certification with the U.S Patent and Trademark Bureau.
U.S. Cyber Trust Mark logo

Head Scratching Math on USAC ECF Inquiries:

We’ve received a few reports from ECF applicants mystified with the math reflected in ECF inquiries they’ve received from USAC with statements such as:

You reported your student count to 650 and your unmet needs for devices to 300 of unmet needs.  This would suggest that your unmet needs are the same or similar to you total student count.

Although the language of this apparent template is a little awkward, the statement suggesting that 300 is the same or even similar to 650 is even more puzzling.  Our suggestion is to ignore the math — or seek help from a youngster who has been schooled in new math — and simply answer the following and more straightforward questions on students with unmet needs.

USAC’s E-Rate News Brief Dated July 20, 2023, includes the following reminders for filing a Form 470:

  • You must file the FCC Form 470 in EPC.
  • Your organization's profile must be established in EPC before you can file a program form, including a Form 470.
  • If you issue a request for proposal (RFP) and/or RFP documents, you must upload these documents to your FCC Form 470.
  • Certify the form online in EPC.
  • Your receipt notification will appear in your EPC News feed after you certify your form.
  • Service providers can view filed Form 470s either through EPC or on the USAC website.

Last week’s News Brief further reminds applicants that the legacy BEAR filing system will be transitioned into EPC later this year.  EPC has already been modified to keep track of individuals authorized to prepare and/or certify BEARs.  For the most part, these authorizations have been migrated from the BEAR legacy system but should be checked by all applicants.

To review and/or modify BEAR permissions within EPC, the Account Administrator should use the Manage User Permissions function and make sure, as shown below, that the proper option has been selected for each user.

EPC Manage User Permissions function

The News Brief also reminds service providers to file their FY 2023 Form 473, Service Provider Annual Certification (“SPAC”) forms.  USAC will not process either BEAR or SPI invoices associated with service providers without current SPACs for that funding year.  Funding years for which SPACs have been filed are listed in the Service Provider Download Tool.