Collapse All

April 23, 2012

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.

Funding Status

The FY 2012 Form 471 filing window is closed and application reviews have begun.  USAC is expected to release a preliminary estimate of FY 2012 demand later this month.  The first funding wave for FY 2012 is expected in May.

Wave 44 for FY 2011 will be released on Tuesday, April 24th.  Cumulative funding for FY 2011 is $2.14 billion.  Priority 2 funding for FY 2011 is currently being provided only at the 90% level and is being denied at 79% and below.

No funding wave for FY 2010 is scheduled for release this week.

July 1st Deadlines for CIPA and Tech Plans

July 1, 2012, marks the beginning of FY 2012.  As such, it is a critical deadline for a number of applicants.  There are two situations which may need to be addressed.

Internet Safety Policy Updates:

Last August, the FCC released CIPA rule revisions incorporating the E-rate provisions of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act enacted in 2008.  The most important aspect of the new Order (FCC 11-125) is that Internet safety policies must "…include monitoring the online activities of minors and must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response."

The new education requirements for Internet safety become effective as of FY 2012 — i.e., July 1st — for all school E-rate applicants applying for discounts on anything more than telecommunications services.  (Note: Libraries are not affected by the new policy requirements.)  This means that schools, school districts, and educational service agencies, that have not already updated their Internet safety policies, have less than two and a half months to do so.

The two key questions to be addressed are:

  1. What must be added to an Internet safety policy to make it compliant?
  2. How must the change be made and documented?
  • Neither the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act nor the implementing FCC Order provides much in the way of details beyond general language calling for the inclusion of a monitoring and educational policy component.  This provides some flexibility for any applicant seeking to update their policy.  E-Rate Central, for example, has updated its CIPA Primer to include only minimal education policy language, namely:

[For schools only] The <Title> or designated representatives will provide age-appropriate training for students who use the <School's> Internet facilities. The training provided will be designed to promote the <School's> commitment to:

  • The standards and acceptable use of Internet services as set forth in the <School's>  Internet Safety Policy;
  • Student safety with regard to:
    • safety on the Internet;
    • appropriate behavior while on online, on social networking Web sites, and in chat rooms; and
    • cyberbullying awareness and response.
  • Compliance with the E-rate requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA").

Following receipt of this training, the student will acknowledge that he/she received the training, understood it, and will follow the provisions of the District's acceptable use policies.

While this should meet all of the FCC's requirements, a school interested in incorporating more expansive educational provisions may want to include language detailing actual education programs, schedules, and resources by grade level.  One excellent (and free) resource for schools addressing the new CIPA requirements is the Common Sense Media Cyberbullying Toolkit.

Note:  Our view on the minimal education language requirement for an Internet safety policy is driven not only by the FCC Order, but by the FCC's traditional hands-off stance with regard to more detailed regulations.  Interestingly, however, the FCC released a Small Entity Compliance Guide on the CIPA revisions last week.  In addition to providing a nice review of the changes, the Guide concludes with the disturbing statement that in order for schools to certify "…that their Internet safety policies provide for the education of minors…they will have to update their Internet safety policies with the plan they are using to provide education about appropriate online behavior" [emphasis added].  

A requirement to include "the plan" is not part of the FCC Order.  The FCC specifically addresses this issue in Paragraph 6 of the Order concluding that "...although a school's Internet safety policy may include the development and use of educational materials, the policy itself does not have to include such materials."

How an Internet safety policy is initially adopted, or subsequently revised, is also important.  The original (and still applicable) CIPA rules require that an Internet safety policy be formally adopted after due public notice and a public meeting.  In the event of an audit, it is critically important that an applicant be able to document the entire public adoption process.

It has been our experience that many an applicant can no longer produce a record of a public notice or of board minutes for the adoption of an Internet safety policy that may have taken place as far back as 2001 (when CIPA was first enacted).  The nominal 5-year record retention rule is misleading with regard to CIPA documentation.  If, for example, an applicant certifies CIPA compliance in a Form 486 for FY 2011, USAC will expect that applicant to be able to prove that its Internet safety policy was properly adopted — at least as far back as 2004 when the FCC's record retention rules were enacted.

Technically, last year's CIPA changes do not require that the necessary revisions to an applicant's Internet safety policy be adopted in a public forum.  But before taking a less formal approach, we strongly advise applicants to make sure that they can document the original policy adoption.  If that documentation is not available, adoption of the revised policy should be done formally in a public forum (as may be required locally anyway), and fully documented.

Technology Plan Approvals:

Applicants applying for Priority 2 services for FY 2012 will need approved technology plans in place covering the services they expect to use during the year.  Those with existing plans expiring June 30, 2012, should have updated plans approved by July 1st.

Note that Priority 2 applicants with expiring plans should have already created updated plans before filing their Form 470s for FY 2012.  What is now required, before Priority 2 services begin for FY 2012, is that these updated plans be formally approved.  A searchable list of USAC-certified tech plan approvers is available on the SLD's Web site.

E-Rate Updates and Reminders

Last Week's FCC Appeal Decisions:

The FCC issued four more appeal decisions last week, each involving a specific applicant and/or service provider.  Two cases involved the ongoing saga of Trillion and its customers who had been the subject of numerous competitive bidding-related denials and subsequent FCC appeals.  The FCC appears to be dealing with these appeals on a case-by-case basis, last week approving appeals involving alleged improper communications (DA 12-605) and gifts (DA 12-604).  In the latter case, the FCC took pains to note that its decision could have been different if the gifts in question had been received after the FCC established explicit gift rules in its Sixth Report and Order.

The other two decisions were appeal denials.  One (DA 12-596) involved funding for equipment that was not installed for five years (and for which no location existed when funding was requested); the other (DA 12-599) involved an applicant's inability to provide RFP documentation reportedly due to the death of one individual and other district personnel changes.

Schools and Libraries News Brief Dated April 20 – Form 471 Reminder Letters

Last week's SLD News Brief for April 20, 2012, discusses the two types of reminder letters that the SLD sent to certain FY 2012 applicants last week.  In particular:

  1. Almost 990 "Notification of Form 471 With No Certification" letters were sent to applicants who had completed timely Form 471s online, but who had not yet certified them.
  2. Almost 7,600 "Item 21 Attachment Urgent Reminder Letters" were sent to applicants who had filed timely Form 471s, but who had not submitted Item 21 attachments for one or more of the associated FRNs.

In both cases, applicants will have until May 9th to complete their applications.  After that date, uncertified applications and FRNs without Item 21 attachments will be treated as if received outside the Form 471 filing window (and almost surely denied).

Instructions for completing the certifications and/or submitting the Item 21 attachments are provided in the News Brief and in the reminder letters themselves.

Note: The SLD's ability to identify incomplete applications is not perfect, particularly with regard to matching online Form 471s with separately submitted Item 21 attachments.  Our advice for applicants who receive reminder letters, but who have already completed the certifications or submitted the required Item 21 attachments, is to confirm their receipt by contacting the Client Service Bureau by phone (888-203-8100) or e-mail (Submit a Question), retaining all related documentation.  Submitting second certifications may require applicants to file separate requests to cancel the duplicates.