[NHDOE-ETNews] E-rate Updates

Freeda, Stanley Stanley.Freeda at doe.nh.gov
Mon May 2 14:02:55 EDT 2016

Today on the ETNews Listserv
ITEM:  E-rate Updates

Funding Status - FY 2015 and FY 2016

The revised filing deadline for FY 2016 applications is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 26th.  Libraries and consortia, whose applications depend on the completion of related school district data, have been granted an additional eight-week extension to July 21st.  As a result of the latter Form 471 deadline extension, the last possible date for libraries and consortia to file Form 470s for FY 2016 is June 23rd.

PIA review of submitted FY 2016 applications began last week.  The first funding wave for FY 2016 should be released by the first week of June.

Wave 48 for FY 2015 will be released on Thursday, May 5th.  Funding for FY 2015 is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 services at all discount levels.  Cumulative funding for FY 2015 is $3.23 billion.

Updates on USAC's E-Rate Productivity Center

EPC Overhaul Planned for FY 2018:

A quarterly meeting of USAC's Schools & Libraries Committee, held last Tuesday, included an E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) Status Update.  The topic, previously marked as "Confidential" and scheduled for the Executive Session, was first discussed in the preceding Open Session.  The news was astounding.

USAC announced that the Appian-based, applicant-facing portion of EPC was to be completely redone for the FY 2018 application cycle, built on a new platform.  The current Appian platform will continue be used on the backend to support internal USAC processing operations.  Although we will have to await further details, this presumably means that:

  1.  USAC has apparently concluded that the Appian platform does not have the flexibility, at least without an overly expensive rebuild, to address all the applicant-related problems that have arisen during the FY 2016 application cycle.
  2.  USAC will continue to improve the current EPC system for applicant use during the FY 2017 application cycle, but that major changes to the applicant interface will be deferred until the new system is ready.  As a practical matter, we expect applicants to have an easier time in FY 2017, than they did in FY 2016.  This is likely because much of the required information on entities, connectivity, contracts, and ongoing FRNs is now largely in place.
  3.  USAC has less than two years to implement a new applicant front-end system.  This is an aggressive time-frame for IT development, but it provides a longer window than USAC had to develop the current EPC system.

FCC Releases Lifeline Modernization Order:

The FCC's final Third Report and Order (FCC 16-38<http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0427/FCC-16-38A1.pdf>) to reform and modernize the Lifeline Program was released last week.  As discussed in earlier newsletters, the Lifeline Program is one of four Universal Service Fund ("USF") programs.  It is separate from the E-rate Program, but there is an overlap in the reforms' focus on broadband.  A portion of the new Order, moreover, specifically addresses the need to close the "Homework Gap," recognizing the difficulty of low-income family access to mobile and home Internet services for students.

A useful summary<http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0404/DOC-338676A1.pdf> of the Lifeline Program changes was provided when the Order was adopted March 31st.  The most fundamental change is the transition of Lifeline support (generally $9.25 per month per household), currently provided for voice telephone services, to broadband Internet services.  How these reforms are to be accomplished - although not the primary goal itself - were highly controversial along party lines within the Commission.  A full 10% of the 224-page final Order includes detailed dissents by the two Republican commissioners.  Conceivably, a change in the administration later this year could alter the implementation of Lifeline reform.

The following aspects of Lifeline reform are likely to be most important to the E-rate community:

  1.  Over time, as is the case with E-rate, Lifeline support for voice services will be phased out in favor of support for mobile and residential broadband Internet.  The transition is scheduled to begin next year and is to be completed by 2021.  It includes increasing minimum service standards for mobile broadband (transmission speeds and data packages).  The starting point for fixed broadband services is 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
  2.  An interesting aspect of the mobile broadband transition is a requirement that carriers supported by Lifeline - and providing mobile devices - be required to offer at least one (to start) type of WiFi-enabled device to Lifeline customers that supports data services in WiFi hot spots.  Lifeline customers using such devices may be able to access school and library networks.
  3.  To be eligible for Lifeline subsidies, a household's income must be at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  This is well within the 130-180% range for reduced-price lunch eligibility used for E-rate purposes.  Previously, NSLP participation by a family's child was one of several approved validation measures.  This will no longer be the case, but the reverse (a family's participation in Lifeline) may prove a useful measure in determining NSLP eligibility.
  4.  To determine Lifeline eligibility, the FCC is creating a third-party National Eligibility Verifier, managed by USAC, to be rolled out in the 2017-2019 timeframe.  The system is explicitly to be designed to "function as an interface for authorized users for many different activities."  This suggests that a new source of E-rate NSLP data may become available.

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