What’s New for E-rate Funding Year 2016
November 1, 2015
On October 30, a webinar was conducted for PA applicants that outlined the changes to the E-rate program for Funding Year 2016. If you couldn’t attend, I encourage you to view the attached PowerPoint from that workshop and read this message in its entirety. The changes that went into effect beginning in FY 2015 are outlined at the end of the PP presentation as well.
Direct BEAR Payments to Applicants - Beginning July 1, 2016, applicants will submit Form 472 BEARs directly to USAC without first seeking service provider approval. USAC will then remit reimbursement payments directly to applicants — again without going through the service provider. All reimbursements from USAC must occur through electronic funds transfer (EFT) and no paper checks will be issued. In order to collect the banking information from all entities that submit BEARs, applicants will be required to complete a Form 498 in the EPC Portal at some point after January 2016. The form and its EPC functionality is not yet available.
Fiber/WAN Eligibility Changes:
- Dark Fiber Eligibility Changes – The E-rate rules pertaining to leased lit fiber and dark fiber have been levelized this year, so that the special construction charges related to installing fiber from the service providers’ network facility all the way into the applicant’s building are eligible for E-rate. Previously, the rules only permitted such costs from the curb into the building. In addition, the modulating electronics and equipment necessary to make the dark fiber service functional are now eligible to be purchased with Category 1 funds.
- Fiber WAN Ownership – This is also known as self-construction and is now eligible under Category 1. A RFP must be issued along with posting a Form 470, seeking proposals for both lit fiber and dark fiber service, and the bidding period must be longer than 28 days (6 weeks is suggested). If construction and ownership of dark fiber facilities is found to be most cost-effective, E-rate will fund the project beginning in FY 2016. If interested in purchasing fiber, please contact me ASAP in order to be placed in touch with USAC’s new fiber guru who will walk you through the process.
- WAN Special Construction Amortization Rule Changes – Special construction charges refer to one-time charges incurred for installation of new fiber. It can include the construction of network facilities, design and engineering and project management. The previous rule that required at minimum 3-year E-rate amortization of such charges has been suspended — E-rate will allow the entire amount to be requested in Year 1 of the contract. Further, applicants are permitted to ask vendors for up to a -year payment plan for the non-discounted share of the costs.
EPC – New E-rate Portal - The single biggest change for FY 2016 is the new mandatory E-rate Portal whereby all E-rate forms, correspondence and interactions with USAC will be integrated. In order to apply for FY 2016, your Billed Entity’s Account Administrator (AA) must have set up your EPC account. If you have not yet done so, please call USAC right away (888-203-8100) to have them walk you through the EPC account set-up, including determining who is your EPC AA, or changing your AA. All Form 470′s must be filed in the EPC Portal, so don’t delay. Within the next few weeks I hope to have a list of entities that have or have not yet set up their EPC accounts which will hopefully help us provide targeted outreach to those entities that still need help. If you have your EPC password set up, but have not yet configured your account, be sure to perform these steps:
- Review list of schools to ensure none are missing.
- Submit a Customer Service Case to USAC requesting to have your NIFs (non-instructional facilities) added to your EPC account. There is no way to add them manually – you must tell USAC which they are and request that they be added.
- Join a consortium, such as your RWAN consortium, if applicable.
- Link to an E-rate consultant, if you have one. There is no way for consultants to “pull you in” to their EPC accounts — this must be done by the Account Administrator.
- Add other school or library “users” who you want to have access to your EPC account. Also, you’ll want to assign them Full Rights or Partial Rights (I recommend Full Rights) and then make sure they response to the e-mail that invites them to set up their EPC password.
- Change the enrollment/NSLP data for each school. You may wish to wait and perform this function after the PDE NSLP file is released in January.
New FY 2016 Form 470 - The FY 2016 Form 470 is now available and must be filed in the EPC Portal using the “Apply Online” button at the top right of the page. This year’s form is much different than in previous years, as it asks more specific questions and uses drop down options to describe your service. The narrative boxes should be used to further describe any services you want because often the choices given in the form don’t exactly describe what you are seeking. In addition, if you are going to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) along with your Form 470, you MUST upload it into the Form 470. No longer can you give a URL and direct service providers to your website for a copy. Any RFP addenda that may be released also must be uploaded to the Form 470, a process that can be done using the Related Actions feature in EPC. A Form 470-specific webinar will be held on Wednesday, November 18 at 10 am. Register at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/470Nov18. I strongly encourage you to have your Form 470s filed prior to leaving for Thanksgiving break!
New FY 2016 Form 471 - The Form 471 also will be new for FY 2016 and will be required to be completed in EPC. The new form will not be available until January; 471-specific training will be offered at that time. The biggest anticipated changes for the new 471 will be:
- EPC Contract Wizard – Although it is not yet functional, there will be a Contract Wizard in EPC where applicants must upload copies of their vendor contracts along with supporting details related to contract award dates, expiration dates, extensions, # of bids received, etc. Applicants must complete the Contract Wizard prior to entering the Form 471, and then when creating a funding request for contracted services, the system will require you to choose among the contracts that have been uploaded/entered in the EPC Contract Wizard for your entity.
- Block 4 – All enrollment and NSLP data will be entered into each school’s EPC profile prior to completing the Form 471. The Form 471 itself will not permit you to enter this data, as it will be pulled directly from your EPC profile. Essentially, the Form 471 will become a funding request form only.
- Greater Granularity of Broadband/Internet Descriptions – The FCC is very interested in knowing exactly what services each school and library has, and thus the new Form 471 will require greater specificity than in prior years. The survey questions that appeared in FY 2015, however, are not expected to be in the new form.
FY 2016 Form 471 Application Window - The Form 471 window is expected to open in early January and close in mid-late March. Firm dates will be announced in early December.
Category 2 Bidding Options - I know many of you are eager to submit your 470s or conduct a PEPPM mini-bid for FY 2016 and I will be sending the complete Category 2 Bidding Options message to the listserve within the next week. Further, there will be a Category 2 webinar held on Friday, November 6 at 10 am for schools and libraries only (no vendors). Registration is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Cat2Nov6. A link to the webinar will be sent to the registrants prior to the event.
It’s going to be another fascinating year in the E-rate program and I encourage you to embrace the changes! They are here to stay. If you have any questions about anything in this message, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator