E-Rate News Flash 19-10

E-Rate
  Friday, June 28, 2019

Issue 19-10

June 28, 2019

E-rate News Flash

Contents:

  • Announcements and News
  • Funding Commitment Summary
  • Pending Dates and Deadlines
  • Upcoming Training Events
  • E-rate Process: Activities to Work on Now

Announcements and News

USAC Announces Fall Applicant Trainings

USAC has announced the USAC annual fall applicant trainings. The two-day sessions, available to attendees free of charge, start with an optional half-day afternoon session targeted to beginners followed by a full-day training that includes separate breakout sessions for beginners and for more advanced users. Three of the dates will include content of particular interest to Tribal applicants. Registration is available here.

  • September 16 – 17 Washington, DC
  • September 19 – 20 Washington, DC
  • September 23 – 24 Farmers Branch, TX
  • October 2 – 3 Palatine, IL
  • October 16 – 17 Vancouver, WA (morning Tribal session October 16)
  • October 22 – 23 North Branch, NJ
  • October 31 – November 1 San Marcos, CA (at California State University San Marcos)
  • November 13-14 Atlanta, GA
  • November 19 Tahlequah, OK (Tribal one-day session)
  • November 21 Farmington, NM (Tribal one-day session)

FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Establishing Cap on Universal Service Fund (USF)

On May 31, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (DA 19-46) to seek comment on establishing a cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF) and ways in which the Commission could evaluate the financial administration of the four USF programs. Specifically, the fund provides financial support to recipients through four major programs: the High-Cost program (also known as the Connect America Fund), the Lifeline program, the Schools and Libraries program, also known as E-rate, and the Rural Health Care program. In the NRPM, the FCC seeks comment on “on directing USAC and Commission staff to make administrative changes to reduce the size or amount of funding available to the individual program caps in an upcoming year if demand is projected to exceed the overall cap.” And “on prioritizing the funding among the four universal service programs and other possible universal service pilots or programs if still necessary to expenditures where USAC projects that total disbursements will exceed the overall cap.”

Interested parties may file comments in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) under proceeding 06-122 by July 15, 2019, and reply comments by August 12, 2019. Parties may also view posted comments in EFCS by doing a search under proceeding 06-122.

FCC Fiber Over-Build Public Notice Released

On May 30, 2019, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a Texas Carriers’ Petition to prohibit use of E-rate funds (DA 19-493) to build fiber networks in areas where fiber networks already exist.  In the Texas Carriers petition, Texas Carriers outline their proposal which states “…the Texas Carriers believe that the Commission should consider amending the E-Rate competitive bidding requirements, specifically 47 C.F.R. §§ 54.502 and 54.503, to include safeguards that might eliminate, or at least reduce, the possibility of overbuilding existing USF or other government funded networks with E-Rate funds. The Companies propose that the Commission adopt rules that prohibit the use of universal service funds for special construction of fiber networks that overbuild existing fiber networks. To determine whether fiber already exists, the Texas Carriers suggest that the Commission incorporate a public challenge process that requires an E-Rate applicant (including consortia) seeking funding for special construction fiber projects, whether for self-provisioned networks or networks owned by a commercial provider, to confirm that no existing fiber facilities exist. In order to effectively do so, the Companies propose requiring E-Rate applicants seeking new fiber builds to post their proposed special construction projects on the USAC website and allow a sixty (60) day challenge period in which existing provider(s) can demonstrate that its existing network facilities are capable of connecting via fiber the school or library in question. The rules should then provide that funding will not be approved for any special construction costs associated with laying new fiber infrastructure to any portion of the proposed network where it is demonstrated that fiber already exists.”

Interested parties may file comments by July 1, 2019, and reply comments by July 16, 2019, in the Electronic Comment Filing System under proceeding numbers 02-6 and 13-184, and may view comments submitted by doing a search by these proceeding numbers under ECFS.

California Funding Commitment Summary

Funding Year 2019

USAC released FY2019 Wave 9 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDL) on June 20, 2019, bringing cumulative commitments to over $103 million for California applicants. Funding for Category 2 remains sluggish with representing only 6% of funding commitments thus far.

Funding Year 2018

USAC released FY2018 Wave 58 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDL) on June 13, 2019, bringing California commitments to over $276 million.

Pending Dates and Deadlines

Funding Year 2018 FCC Form 486 and Urgent Reminder Letters

FCC Form 486 must be filed 120 days from the date of the issuance of the Funding Commitment Decision Letter (“FCDL”) or the start date of E-rate eligible services, whichever is later. For ongoing recurring services, starting on July 1, 2018, the following deadlines have passed or are approaching in the next month.

Waves #

FCDL
Date

Form 486 Due Date

1-44

4/20/2018-2/7/2019

Deadline passed for services starting July 1, 2018

45

2/15/2019

6/15/2019

46

*No funding for CA applicants

47

3/1/2019

6/29/2019**

48

3/8/2019

7/6/2019**

49

3/15/2019

7/13/2019**

50

3/22/2019

7/20/2019**

**Deadlines that fall on a weekend are due the following business day

 

USAC issues FCC Form 486 Urgent Reminder Letters to applicants that appear to have missed the deadline to certify an FCC Form 486. Applicants missing these or earlier deadlines should closely monitor their News Feed in the E-rate Productivity Center for an FCC Form 486 Urgent Reminder Letter. This letter will allow the applicant a 15-day extension to submit an FCC Form 486 without penalty.

USAC calculates the date to issue this letter based on the service start date reported on your FCC Form 471. If your actual service start date is later than the date you reported on FCC Form 471 then the deadline may not have passed. In this case, you are responsible for calculating your actual deadline as USAC will not issue additional reminder letters.  You can use the 486 Deadlines Tool to calculate your specific deadline.

If you miss the deadline, the service start date will be adjusted to 120 days prior to the date that the Form 486 was actually certified which will likely reduce the funding commitment.

June 30 Category 1 Special Construction Deadline

Funding Year 2018

The deadline for completion of special construction for Category 1 services for Funding Year 2018 is on or before June 30, 2019. Applicants seeking support for special construction related to Category 1 services must request a one-time extension of the June 30 service delivery deadline by demonstrating that construction was unavoidably delayed due to reasons beyond the Applicant’s and/or Service Provider’s control. Applicants who have received Funding Commitment Decision Letters for their 2018 special construction funding request(s) may obtain this one-time extension by filing an FCC Form 500 for the associated FRN(s) on or before the June 30 deadline. Applicants that have 2018 funding requests that have not yet received a funding commitment decision must still file a request for extension on or before the June 30, 2019, deadline. Please see USAC’s May 25, 2018 News Brief for more information on how to file Special Construction extensions.

Funding Year 2017

It is important to note that USAC may only authorize a single one-year extension for special construction funding requests. For applicants who may have received this extension for 2017 funding requests, the extended deadline for delivery of services is June 30, 2019. If services are not installed and operational by this deadline, the applicant should visit the USAC Appeals web page, file a waiver request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under proceedings 02-6 and 13-184 and explain what extraordinary circumstances prohibited timely installation and delivery of services.

Upcoming Training Events

Numerous training opportunities available for E-rate applicants are coming soon.

USAC Webinars

USAC Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars are posted on the USAC website. USAC most recently held a webinar on starting services and preparing the FCC Form 486.

K12 High Speed Network Webinars

K12 High Speed Network Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars are posted on the K12HSN website.

EducationSuperHighway Webinars

EducationSuperHighway Webinars

Recordings of previous webinars are posted on the EducationSuperHighway website.

E-RATE Process: Activities to Work on Now

Program Integrity Review: Modification Notifications, Denial Notifications, and Incomplete Response Notifications

Generally, USAC will issue notifications to applicants if it intends to reduce or deny FCC Form 471 funding requests. The FCC Form 471 contact will receive outreach from a Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviewer with a notification of the reduction or denial and a link to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) where additional information may be available on the reason(s) for reduction or denial. It is very important to review and respond to these inquiries immediately because they do not allow for the typical 15-day response window experienced in PIA review. If USAC does not receive an immediate response, USAC can make the stated reductions or denials by issuing a Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) in the next FCC Form 471 weekly funding wave. It is important that applicants carefully review USAC’s notifications and provide additional information, documentation, and/or a rebuttal to USAC’s initial decision before the FCDL is issued. USAC may also issue an Incomplete Response notification if an applicant has not fully responded to USAC’s questions or if the reviewer does not understand the information submitted. This provides applicants an additional opportunity to provide information; a lack of response can lead to funding denial.

Applicants have reported that EPC will not allow them to upload responses to modification or denial notifications. Applicants experiencing this issue are advised to e-mail the PIA reviewer directly outside of EPC with the information needed and to also create a customer service case to document the EPC issue which prohibited the applicant from being able to submit its response in EPC. Applicants are also encouraged to proactively e-mail and call their PIA reviewers in any instance where they are unsure of what USAC is requesting or to help the reviewers understand information submitted.

Applicants who were unable to respond to USAC’s reduction or denial notifications, or whose rebuttals were not accepted by the USAC reviewer will receive USAC’s decision in the FCDL. Applicants have 60 calendar days to appeal USAC’s decision from the date of the FCDL. However, responding to USAC’s notifications promptly will help applicants avoid this route and to receive their positive funding commitments in a timely fashion.

Funding Year 2019: Filing an FCC Form 486

Upon receipt of a positive Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL), applicants must file an FCC Form 486 to notify USAC that services have started for the funding year and certify compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

USAC’s online library includes a “How to File” video.

IMPORTANT: The FCC Form 486 filing deadline is 120 days from the date of the issuance of the FCDL or the start date of E-rate eligible services, whichever is later.

USAC’s May 10, 2019 News Brief includes helpful FCC Form 486 filing tips:

  • Applicants should make note of checking the Early Filing box for any FCC Form 486s filed between now and July 31, 2019.
  • Ensure compliance with CIPA and Do Not check the “CIPA Waiver” box unless are you eligible for a CIPA waiver.
  • Select only relevant Funding Request Numbers (FRNs)
    • Applicants may file additional FCC Form 486 for services that have not yet begun at a later date.
  • Correctly identify your Service Start Date (SSD)
    • For Category 1 and Category 2 services that were installed before July 1, 2019, under Advance Installation rules, please note the SSD should default to July 1, 2019.

Review the FCC Form 486 carefully before certification. Incorrect information may delay the review and processing of your form.