News

Tips & News from SLD for June 1, 2012

TIP OF THE WEEK: If you have not yet certified an FCC Form 470 cited on an FCC Form 471 Block 5 funding request, do so online or on paper as soon as possible. If you wait until your PIA reviewer reminds you to do so, your certification becomes subject to the deadline described in the Missing or Late Certifications guidance document.

Commitments for Funding Year 2011

Funding Year 2011. USAC will release FY2011 Wave 47 FCDLs June 5. This wave includes commitments for approved Priority 2 (Internal Connections and Basic Maintenance) requests at 90% and denials at 79% and below. As of June 1, FY2011 commitments total over $2.18 billion.

On the day the FCDLs are mailed, you can check to see if you have a commitment by using USAC’s Automated Search of Commitments tool.

Fall 2012 Applicant Training Sessions

The eight applicant training sessions scheduled for fall 2012 are filling up. We have started a waiting list for the Washington DC session; the other sessions still have space available. To register with USAC for the training or to make a room reservation at a conference hotel, refer to the Trainings and Outreach page on the USAC website.

Registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register only for the session that you want to attend. You can email USAC Training with questions or to cancel your registration if your plans change. 

What Should Applicants Be Doing this Summer?

Both applicants and service providers can, with a few simple steps, make sure applications continue to be reviewed, invoices continue to be paid, and documents continue to be processed during the summer months. Here are a few tips on how you can help speed these forms and requests along:

1. Monitor the contact information you provided on program forms and requests.

Applicants and service providers provide contact information on each program form and also on each program request, e.g., for a Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) change, service substitution, or invoice deadline extension. USAC uses this information to contact the person that submitted the form or request if any questions arise during processing and/or review.

Please monitor the preferred mode of contact you indicated on your forms and requests in case USAC has any questions – especially the holiday/vacation/summer contact information in Item 6f on your FCC Form 471. While we are currently in the summer contact period and will place your form or request on hold if we cannot contact you (see below), it is to your advantage to respond if you are able to do so.  

2. Respond to any PIA review questions.

Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) continues to review applications during the summer. If you do not respond to a request for information by the deadline on the PIA request, PIA will review your application with the information you provided, which may lead to a reduction or denial of funding.

The contact procedures for the summer period – which are defined in the Missing Information guidance document – are now in effect. When we follow these procedures, if our first attempt to contact you is on or after May 25 and we are unable to make a successful two-way contact with you or someone able to answer our questions, we will put your application on hold and attempt to contact you again on or after September 7.

  • Note, however, that if PIA’s first attempt to contact you was before May 25 and was successful, you are still subject to the 15-day response deadline unless you requested and were granted an extension. You can refer to the May 25 SL News Brief for more information, including the definition of a successful contact.

If you do not want your application placed on hold, you can respond to the PIA request or contact your reviewer to keep the review process moving. If you don’t have your reviewer’s name or contact information, you can contact the Client Service Bureau (CSB) at 1-888-203-8100. To determine if your application is on hold, go to the View 471 Status tool, enter your Billed Entity Number and Funding Year, and click “Search.”

  • If the status of your FCC Form 471 is “Unable to Contact,” your form is on hold.
  • If the status of your FCC Form 471 is “Awaiting Applicant Documentation,” contact your reviewer as soon as possible to find out what information PIA has requested from you.

3. Respond to any Problem Resolution (paper form processing) questions.

USAC continues to process paper forms during the summer as well. If USAC cannot enter data from your paper form, someone from Problem Resolution will contact you to obtain the information we need to complete the processing of your form.

As above, if Problem Resolution cannot make a successful first contact with you on or after May 25, we will put the processing of your paper form on hold until after September 7. If it appears that a paper form has not yet been processed, you can ask about the status of your form by using Submit a Question or calling the Client Service Bureau at 1-888-203-8100.

4. Submit your BEAR Forms for services already received for FY2011.

Applicants submit an FCC Form 472, Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Form, to request reimbursement of the discount amount from USAC after paying for services in full. Although some applicants wait until the end of the funding year and then submit one BEAR Form for the entire year, you can submit BEAR Forms monthly, quarterly, or at other intervals as long as you don’t file duplicate requests for services received during the same period.

If you submit a BEAR Form now, make sure someone is in the office to either deposit the reimbursement check from your service provider or to work with the service provider to give you a credit on your bill. Remember that you can submit BEAR Forms both online and on paper.

5. Review your CIPA status.

We have a few reminders for applicants reviewing their status under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in advance of the FY2012 start of services.

Beginning July 1, 2012, when schools certify their compliance with CIPA, they will also be certifying that their Internet safety policies have been updated to provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, cyberbullying awareness, and response. For more information on this requirement, you can refer to the FCC’s Report and Order FCC 11-125, released August 11, 2011.

Remember that your First Funding Year for purposes of CIPA is the first funding year (starting with FY2001) in which an FCC Form 486 was successfully processed for a funding commitment for Internet Access, Internal Connections, or Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections. For more information on First, Second, and Third Funding Years and other aspects of CIPA, refer to the CIPA guidance document on the USAC website.

  • If FY2012 is your First Funding Year for purposes of CIPA, you must be undertaking actions to be in compliance with CIPA for FY2013.
  • If FY2012 is your Second Funding Year for purposes of CIPA and state or local procurement rules or regulations or competitive bidding requirements prevent the making of the CIPA certification, review the CIPA guidance document for specific information on requesting a waiver.
  • If you have already reported on an FCC Form 486 in a previous funding year that you are in compliance with CIPA, review your Internet safety policy and verify that you are following it. Pay special attention to the technology protection measure (filter) referenced in your policy, as you should retain documentation showing that it is in place – for example, with service provider bills noting filtered access or monthly logs of blocked sites.
  • If your First Funding Year for purposes of CIPA occurred in the past and you have not applied for discounts in the interim but did so for FY2012, note that you cannot restart the process of CIPA compliance. (In other words, you cannot have a First Funding Year for a second time.)
  • Note that CIPA does not apply to telecommunications services, telecommunications, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, or fiber services requested in the Internet Access category for telecommunications transmission purposes.
  • If you are a member of a consortium and CIPA applies to you, your consortium leader cannot file an FCC Form 486 until you have completed an FCC Form 479 with the appropriate CIPA certification and returned that form to your consortium leader.

6. Label and store program-related documents.

FCC rules require you to retain documentation related to the application process and the receipt and delivery of discounted services for five years after the last date to receive service.

Some examples of documents that you should file now – before they are lost or misplaced – include:

  • A copy of your Request for Proposals (RFPs) if one was issued
  • Correspondence with service providers, such as answers to questions posed by bidders during the time the competitive bidding process was open
  • Winning and losing bids
  • Bid evaluation matrices
  • Other documentation related to the competitive bidding process.

Filing these documents now will ensure that they are available later in the event they are needed. 

7. Make sure the technology plan that covers FY2012 services has been approved.

FCC rules require that Priority 2 services be covered by an approved technology plan. Because July 1, 2012 is the first day applicants can receive discounted services for FY2012, technology plans that cover services for FY2012 should have already been approved by a USAC-certified Technology Plan Approver (TPA).

  • If your current technology plan expires before July 1, 2012 and you don’t know if your new plan has been approved, check with your TPA.
  • If your plan has been approved, be sure to keep a copy of the technology plan approval letter or other evidence – such as a printout of a TPA webpage listing approved plans – that demonstrates the approval.
  • If your plan has not been approved, move quickly to get it approved before services start for FY2012. USAC cannot pay discounts for Priority 2 services not covered by an approved technology plan.

8. Subscribe to the Schools and Libraries News Brief from a personal email account.

USAC will continue to issue SL News Briefs each Friday during the summer. Along with general program guidance, the News Briefs will include updates that may request or require action before September.

You are welcome to subscribe to the SL News Brief from more than one email account – even if you subscribe from the second account only during the summer months and then unsubscribe when you return in September – by clicking on the “subscribe” link at the bottom of this page. This way you can stay informed if you do not have access to your email account at work during the summer.

9. Start making plans to attend applicant training in the fall.

Registration for fall applicant training has opened (see above). If you would like attend training and need time to obtain permission to travel or for other reasons, you can get your process started now. You may want to register with USAC if you are interested in attending a particular session, as some sessions do fill up quickly. Remember that USAC does not charge a registration fee to attend the training.

We will cover summer activities for service providers in a future SL News Brief.

 

May 25th SLD News and Tips

TIP OF THE WEEK: If you file BEAR Forms – and especially if you file one BEAR Form for the entire year – start collecting customer bills and other information that you will need to invoice USAC for FY2011 recurring services. June 30, 2012 is the last day to receive FY2011 recurring services and October 29, 2012 is the deadline to submit an invoice for those services.

Commitments for Funding Year 2010

Funding Year 2010. USAC will release FY2010 Wave 95 FCDLs May 30. This wave can include commitments for approved Priority 2 services at all discount levels. As of May 25, FY2010 commitments total over $3.05 billion.

On the day the FCDLs are mailed, you can check to see if you have a commitment by using USAC’s Automated Search of Commitments tool.

FCC Announces FY2012 Funding Cap

On May 18, 2012, the Wireline Competition Bureau announced in Public Notice DA 12-791 that the E-rate program funding cap for Funding Year 2012 is $2,338,786,577. The new cap represents a 2.1% inflation-adjusted increase from FY2011’s $2,290,682,250 cap.

Fall 2012 Applicant Training Dates and Locations Announced

Below is the list of the cities, dates, and hotels for the fall 2012 applicant training sessions:

City Date Hotel
Washington, DC October 1 Renaissance Arlington Capital View
Dallas, TX October 9 Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel
St. Louis, MO October 16 Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel
Atlanta, GA October 18 Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel
Newark, NJ October 23 Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott
Minneapolis, MN October 30 Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Mall of America
Portland, OR November 1 Hilton Portland & Executive Tower
Los Angeles, CA *November 7 Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel

 

* Please note that previous issues of the SL News Brief featured an earlier date. They have been revised to reflect the correct date.

To register with USAC for the training or to make a room reservation at a conference hotel, refer to the Trainings and Outreach page on the USAC website.

Registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register only for the session that you want to attend. You can email USAC Training with questions or to cancel your registration if your plans change. 

Summer Period for Information Requests Starts Today

USAC has procedures to contact applicants and service providers if more information is necessary to process a form. These procedures are described in more detail in the Missing Information guidance document on the USAC website. Below we discuss two of the most common situations where USAC needs more information:

  • Problem Resolution. If USAC cannot complete data entry of a paper form because information is missing or inconsistent, Problem Resolution will attempt to reach the contact person listed on the form (or in our database, if no contact information is provided on the form) to obtain the necessary information.
  • Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review. If USAC needs more information from an applicant to complete the review of an application, a PIA initial reviewer will use the contact information provided on the form to send questions and to inform the applicant of correctable errors discovered on the form during the application review process.

In these situations, USAC’s customary procedure is as follows:

  • USAC uses your preferred mode of contact to send you questions and to request responses. For PIA review, if your preferred mode of contact is telephone, we will call you and request an email address or fax number in order to provide you with our questions in writing.
  • If we have not heard from you after seven days from our first attempt to contact you, we will attempt to contact you again and we will also inform your state E-rate coordinator that we are attempting to contact you.
  • If we have not heard from you after 15 days from our first attempt to contact you, we will use the information we have to complete processing of your application. For a paper form, this may mean that we will have to return the form to you without completing data entry. For an FCC Form 471, this may mean that the funding you requested will be reduced or denied.

We realize that, during a summer period and a winter period each year, many applicants are unavailable due to extended holiday and break schedules. Problem Resolution or PIA will not continue the process described above during these periods unless we speak by telephone with the contact person or someone else who has been designated to respond to our questions.

  • Our summer period is defined as the Friday before Memorial Day through the Friday after Labor Day. For 2012, the dates of the summer period are May 25 through September 7.

If our first attempt to reach you is on or after May 25, and we cannot confirm by telephone that you are available to respond to our questions, we will not begin Problem Resolution or PIA review until after September 7.

However, if we have made a successful contact with you before May 25, your 15-day response clock has started and we will act on the information we have on hand if we have not heard from you by the response deadline. We define a successful contact as:

  • A sent email message with no return notification of non-delivery or out-of-office response or 
  • A sent fax with a confirmation of successful transmission or
  • A voicemail left at the contact person’s telephone number if the recorded greeting does not state that the contact person is out of the office or
  • A live person answering our call at the contact telephone number or a return call responding to our message.

If PIA has already contacted you and you wish to designate someone to answer questions in your absence, be sure to send your designee’s contact information to your PIA reviewer. If PIA has not contacted you and your designee will be checking your messages, be sure that you have provided written authorization for your designee to answer questions about your application. PIA will request this authorization in case any changes need to be made.

If you designate someone to answer questions in your absence, be sure that person has sufficient knowledge of your application to respond accurately. If someone answers a call from PIA but is not in a position to answer PIA questions, make sure the PIA reviewer understands that the review of your application should be put on hold until you return to the office.

Remember that you can ask for more time to respond if you need it.

 

The FCC has announced the inflation-based increase to the FY15 cap

The FCC has announced the inflation-based increase to the FY15 cap:  2.1% or $48million, from $2,290 to $2,338 million.

 Released:  05/18/2012.  WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU ANNOUNCES E-RATE INFLATION-BASED CAP FOR FUNDING YEAR 2012. (DA No.  12-791). (Dkt No 02-6 ).  WCB . Contact:  James Batchell at (202) 418-7400 http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-791A1.doc

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-791A1.pdf

 

SLD Tips & News from 5/18/2012

TIP OF THE WEEK: Continue to monitor the preferred mode of contact (email, fax, or telephone) you indicated on your FCC Form 471. PIA uses this information to contact you with questions on your application.

Commitments for Funding Year 2011

Funding Year 2011. USAC will release FY2011 Wave 46 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) May 23. This wave includes commitments for approved Priority 2 (Internal Connections and Basic Maintenance) requests at 90% and denials at 79% and below. As of May 18, FY2011 commitments total over $2.18 billion.

On the day the FCDLs are mailed, you can check to see if you have a commitment by using USAC’s Automated Search of Commitments tool.

Fall 2012 Applicant Training Dates and Locations Announced; Registration to Open Early Next Week

Each fall, USAC provides training to applicants around the country in advance of the FCC Form 471 application filing window. Below is a list of the training cities for 2012. Information on hotel reservations an training registration will be posted early next week to the Trainings and Outreach page. Please wait until the hotel information is available on the USAC website before contacting the hotel to make a reservation.

City
Date
Washington, DC
October 1
Dallas, TX
October 9
St. Louis, MO
October 16
Atlanta, GA
October 18
Newark, NJ
October 23
Minneapolis, MN
October 30
Portland, OR
November 1
Los Angeles, CA
November 6

The training sessions have an applicant focus but anyone can attend. Registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis. USAC will start a waiting list for each session once that session reaches capacity. We ask that you register only for the session that you want to attend and that you email USAC Training to cancel your registration if your plans change so that someone else can register in your place.

Below are some FAQs for the fall applicant training:

Q. How long is the training?

The training will last a full day. This will allow attendees who live within a few hours’ drive of the training to avoid an overnight stay if they wish.

Q. Who can attend the training?

Anyone can attend. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Keep in mind that the training will be focused on the applicant experience; the annual training for service providers has already occurred.

Q. Does USAC charge a registration fee for the training?

No. However, attendees are responsible for their travel costs including transportation and lodging. Note that at some of the conference hotels, USAC has negotiated a reduced parking rate.

Q. How do I make hotel reservations?

There is a separate web page on the USAC website for each of the eight training sessions. Click on the link from the Trainings and Outreach page to the web page for the training session you would like to attend and follow the instructions on that page to make a hotel reservation.

Note that the conference room rate for a training session expires several weeks before the date of that session. Rooms may not be available – or may be more expensive – if you try to make a reservation after the date that the conference room rate expires. If you have difficulty with the reservation process, you can email USAC Training

Q. What will USAC cover in the training?

We plan to have a beginners session early in the morning that will cover the basic application process for those who need an overview or a refresher. The other sessions at the training change from year to year. In general, we expect them to cover program information along with updates, specific guidance for the FY2013 application process, and details of any changes or revisions to the program.

Q. Will training materials be available onsite?

The final agenda and the training presentations will be posted on the USAC website during the week before the first training session. Attendees should download or print copies and bring them to the training.

USAC will provide packets of general reference materials at each training. We will bring a limited number of printed copies of the presentations, but we suggest you bring your own as those copies tend to go quickly.

Q. What should I bring with me to the training?

At a minimum, we suggest the following:

  • Copies of the presentations, either printed or downloaded.
  • A copy of your hotel reservation.
  • Directions to the hotel by the transportation method you intend to use to get there. Note that there are links to the conference hotels – and in some cases links to directions – on the web page specific to each location. The conference hotels are generally close either to a large airport or to downtown.
  • A sweater or jacket. Hotel conference rooms can be chilly.

Q. What if I still have questions?

You can email USAC Training with any questions. You can also use this email address to cancel or change your conference registration. However, to cancel a hotel reservation, please contact the hotel directly.

 

May 11th News & Tips from SLD

 TIP OF THE WEEK: Remember that June 30, 2012 is the last date to receive FY2011 recurring services. If you are planning to file only one invoice with USAC for the entire funding year, read the information below carefully.

Commitments for Funding Year 2011

Funding Year 2011. USAC will release FY2011 Wave 45 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) May 16. This wave includes commitments for approved Priority 2 (Internal Connections and Basic Maintenance) requests at 90% and denials at 79% and below. As of May 11, FY2011 commitments total over $2.16 billion.

On the day the FCDLs are mailed, you can check to see if you have a commitment by using USAC’s Automated Search of Commitments tool.

Invoicing for FY2011 Recurring Services

June 30, 2012 is the last day to receive recurring services for FY2011. Recurring services are those that are delivered on a regular basis, e.g., monthly telephone services or monthly Internet access. (See also the special note on Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections below.) For those applicants and service providers that have not already started the invoicing process for FY2011, now would be a good time to plan for how and when you will be invoicing USAC in advance of the October 29, 2012 invoicing deadline.

Applicants and service providers should be mindful of the following issues relating to invoicing, especially if they intend to submit one invoice to USAC that covers the entire funding year. Also, if you need to request one or more of the changes discussed below, be sure to submit your request(s) in a timely manner.

Invoices for recurring services

There are two methods that can be used to invoice USAC:

  • FCC Form 472, Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Form, is filed by the applicant and approved by the service provider AFTER the applicant has paid for the eligible services in full. BEAR Forms can be filed online or on paper.
  • FCC Form 474, Service Provider Invoice (SPI) Form, is filed by the service provider AFTER billing the applicant for the non-discount portion of the eligible services. SPI Forms can be filed online, electronically, or on paper.

Once a BEAR Form or SPI Form has been successfully processed for a Funding Request Number (FRN) – even if that successful processing does not result in a payment – you must continue to use that method for that Funding Request Number (FRN). In other words, you cannot use a mixture of SPI and BEAR Forms for a single FRN.

Invoices must be based on eligible costs and supported by customer bills for those costs. Although recurring services are often billed to a customer on a monthly basis, applicants and service providers are not required to submit monthly invoices to USAC but can combine one or more months of service on a single invoice.

For an FRN that covers 12 months of monthly service, USAC will look for 12 months of service in that funding year whether the bills are calculated in advance or in arrears. It is not necessary to prorate the costs for monthly service on (1) the first bill of the year for a month that included July 1 or (2) the last bill of the year for a month that included June 30. However, USAC will check to be sure that there is no overlap in payments – that is, that we did not already pay the discount in the previous funding year for the entire customer bill for the same month of service.

Treating Basic Maintenance as a recurring service

Services in the Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections category of service are considered recurring services. As such, they cannot be delivered after June 30 of a funding year.

If an applicant cannot start an eligible Basic Maintenance service until USAC has issued a funding decision, USAC can process invoices for that service only from the date that the service actually started through the date that the service ended in that funding year (on or before June 30). Note that applicants in this situation should have already applied for these Basic Maintenance services for the following funding year (i.e., starting July 1 of the following funding year) under a new FRN if they want to request discounts on these services after June 30 of the current funding year.

Requesting service delivery deadline extensions

The deadline for delivery and installation of services can be extended for non-recurring services only. USAC cannot consider requests for extensions for the receipt of recurring services.

  • Extension requests: Service delivery deadline extension requests for non-recurring services must be submitted on or before the last day to receive those services, which is generally the September 30 following the close of the funding year. USAC cannot process requests submitted after that deadline.
  • Automatic extensions: If USAC issues certain decisions (e.g., an FCDL, an operational SPIN change approval, or a service substitution approval) on or after March 1 of a funding year, the service delivery deadline for that non-recurring services FRN is automatically extended.

Requesting SPIN changes

Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) changes may be necessary before USAC can pay invoices. Below are some examples of corrective SPIN changes that can and should be made before invoices are submitted:

  • An applicant cited an incorrect SPIN – either because of a typographical error or because the service provider has more than one SPIN – and the error was not caught before USAC issued a commitment.
  • The SPIN has been affected by a merger or acquisition.
  • The applicant filed an FRN using the state replacement contract SPIN and the replacement contract went into effect before or during the funding year.

If the SPIN that appears on the FRN is incorrect, it must be corrected before an invoice can be processed. If you are not sure which SPIN is cited on an FRN, you can submit a question or call the Client Service Bureau at 1-888-203-8100 for assistance.

Returning unused funds with an FCC Form 500

After the final invoice for an FRN has been paid by USAC, the applicant should check to see if any funds remain on the FRN. If so, the applicant should reduce the commitment amount on the FRN to the amount actually paid so that the unneeded funds become available for new commitments for other applicants.

To reduce a commitment amount, the applicant files an FCC Form 500, Adjustment to Funding Commitment and Modification to Receipt of Service Confirmation Form. On the second page of the paper form, the applicant enters the FRN in Item 5B and the reduced commitment amount (the total amount actually invoiced to and paid by USAC for that FRN) in Item 5I. After USAC processes the form, the committed amount is reduced to the amount actually disbursed and the unused funds become available for new funding commitments.

However, do not reduce a funding commitment until you are absolutely sure that all funds have been correctly disbursed. Reductions and cancellations submitted on an FCC Form 500 cannot be reversed after they are processed. If the service provider is filing SPI Forms for an FRN, the applicant should verify with the service provider that all invoices to USAC have been submitted and paid before filing an FCC Form 500 to reduce the committed amount.

Returning funds disbursed in error

During the preparation of BEAR Forms or SPI Forms, the applicant and/or service provider may notice that funds have been disbursed in error. Here are some examples of how this could occur:

  • The applicant or the service provider made a typographical error on a previous invoice.
  • A piece of equipment was returned by the applicant for a refund after USAC paid an invoice for the equipment.
  • USAC was invoiced in full but a rebate or discount was provided to the applicant and USAC did not receive its proportional share of the rebate or discount.

Funds disbursed in error must be returned to USAC. If you can correct the original error (for example, if your invoice to USAC for the first month was too high but you still have other eligible charges to invoice on that FRN), you can submit an accurate invoice to USAC after the funds have been returned.

 
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