Current USAC E-rate News:
The first week of November USAC provided training sessions. Of particular interest would be the Administrative Window webinar about changes to EPC entity profiles and new guidance for updating your information to prepare for the Funding Year (FY) 2021 application filing window. You change find the recordings on the Webinars page.
The FY 2021 Form 471 application window will close this Thursday, March 25th, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. A second E-rate application window for the $7 billion of funding authorized under the Emergency Connectivity Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is expected to open later this Spring. The Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”), Sec. 7402 of the recently signed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is on an FCC fast-track with rules to be promulgated no later than May 10th.
E-rate Funding Year 2021 Form 471 Filing Reminders:
With the FY 2021 application window closing in ten days, USAC’s Schools and Libraries News Brief of March 12, 2021, provides the following reminders on filing a Form 471:
- Wait the full 28 days after your Form 470 was certified before selecting your service provider(s) and certifying your Form 471.
- Make sure all your EPC user rights are correct so that your Form 471 can be drafted and ultimately certified. (Hint: An Account Administrator may have to self-assign permissions that allow them to certify a form.)
- Start your Form 471 early even if you are not ready to provide all funding request details.
- Contract records within EPC must be created for each new contract before they can be cited in a Form 471 application.
- Contact the Client Service Bureau (“CSB”) as soon as possible if you need assistance. CSB’s operating hours will be extended from March 20th through the end of the application window (see News Brief).
- File a RAL modification if you realize you have missing, incomplete, or incorrect information on a Form 471 that has already been certified.
The E-rate section of USAC's website provides resources for new applicants or applicants continuing to participate in the program.
Current E-rate Opportunities:
In January 2020, the FCC released a new Report and Order that makes changes to E-rate rules for Category 2 funding applications.
The most significant changes to E-rate rules for Category Two funding applications include:
Permanent adoption of the Category 2 budget approach
The FCC has made the "Category 2 budget" approach adopted in 2014 permanent. The approach consists of five-year budgets for all schools and libraries that provide a set amount of funding to support internal connections.
Extension of the five-year test period through Funding Year 2020
To ensure a smooth transition to the new permanent rules that will be effective in 2021, the FCC has extended the "test period" rules – used during Funding Years 2015-2019 – through Funding Year 2020. In other words, the five-year test period and budget is now a six-year test period and budget for all applicants.
A central outcome of this decision is that applicants can use whatever budget they have remaining and ALL applicants will be provided with a prorated portion of Category Two budget for Funding Year 2020 – increasing all applicant budgets by 20% for the current funding year. Any funds that are not used this year expire and will not carry forward.
A school will calculate its Funding Year 2020 Category Two budget by multiplying its Funding Year 2020 student count by $195.63 (the Funding Year 2020 school multiplier) and subtracting the pre-discount amount of Category Two funding it received in Funding Years 2015-2019.
New rule changes that will go into effect in 2021:
All applicant budgets will be reset.
Fixed Five-year budget cycles for everyone.
Category 2 budgets will be calculated on a school district-wide budget basis (instead of on a school by school basis).
The “Funding Floor” will increase from $9,200 to $25,000 for districts with less than 150 students.
The per-student budget multiplier has been adopted as an inflation-adjusted $167 (rounded up for administrative simplicity).
Small school districts with ten or fewer sites have the option to calculate their budgets on a per-site basis.
Applicants will only need to provide student counts once every budget cycle.
Student counts will be based on full-time enrollment.
No new eligible services have been added.
Equipment transfer rules have been loosened
Many Education Service Centers (ESC) assist districts in the E-rate process. This may include assisting with filing for E-rate funding or the creation of consortiums and consortium applications to take advantage of economies of scale.
TEA has partnered with EducationSuperHighway to provide experts with network technology and network procurement skills. The team can support all aspects of your upgrade process. Our partners can assist with research on potential network upgrade options, contact service providers, and provide RFP/ Form 470 guideline assistance for E-rate and state match applications. All assistance through the Classroom Connectivity Initiative is provided free of charge.
EducationSuperHighway's Compare and Connect K-12 tool allows districts to maximize their budgets by comparing prices with nearby school districts.
For applicants who applied for and were approved for the 2017-2020 E-rate Classroom Connectivity (State Match) grant, the last day to expend grant funds was August 17, 2020. These NOGAs are now closed.
For applicants who applied for and were approved for the 2018-2021 E-rate Classroom Connectivity (State Match) grant, the last day to expend grants funds is May 31, 2021. This means if your project was approved by TEA, that funding will expire May 31, 2021 and funds must be drawn down by this date.