On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, USAC held it's fourth training session for E-rate applicants in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here are some of the highlights from the applicant training in Minneapolis, Minnesota:
 
Opening Remarks presented by Mel Blackwell
  • We had to extend the filing window last year, if we need to do so again we will.
  • The filing window will probably open in the second week of January and close mid to late March.

How to Use the Portal presented by John Noran

  • PIA questions will be coming through the portal and will be answered through the portal.
  • Issues with file attachments in Submit a Question will be easier when using the portal.
  • If you’ve never set up your portal access before, try going to portal.usac.org, entering your e-mail address and clicking “forgot password”.  If your e-mail address appeared on a previous year’s application, this may work for you.
  • Did you know you could click on the USAC logo in EPC to go back to “My Landing Page”?
  • The “Receipt Notification Letter” folks are used to getting after filing a form will now just be an entry on the News page in EPC.
  • How to update student counts: from My Landing Page, click on the link for your applicant, then click the link in the sidebar that says “Related Entities”, then click the link in the list for the school or library, then click the “Related Actions” link in the sidebar, then click the “Manage Organization” link.
  • John listed off several things that were fixed just this weekend in EPC: making corrections is an ongoing effort.
  • Q&A time: there was some confusion about whether or not everyone at the individual schools or libraries needs an EPC account.
  • USAC is working on a fix so that an applicant can authorize an entire consultant organization to their information instead of just individuals.
  • There may be templates available at some point for uploading student count data en-masse.

How to File a Form 470 presented by Eric Flock

  • In the form 470 utility there is a new box right after the prompt for uploading RFPs that indicates that the file should be associated with all detail lines.
  • Allowable contract date is being added to the 470 PDFs.
  • Changes to a 470 after it has been submitted can be done via the “Related Actions” link in the sidebar.

How to File a Form 471 presented by John Noran

  • EPC has a whole new area/wizard for entering contracts, can be entered BEFORE filing window
  • Seems easy in EPC to lose track of if you are working with the FRNs or the detail lines for a single FRN

Fiber Rules and Overview presented by Joe Freddoso

  • The impetus behind the new rules on Lit and Dark Fiber is to create more competition in the  marketplace and make E-rate funds go further.
  • Recent rule changes make it possible for special construction that occurs beyond the applicant’s property line to be funded.
  • Eric gave some coaching on how to compare a dark fiber bid against a lit fiber bid, since it is a requirement to do that comparison if you are interested in dark fiber.

Understanding Eligible Services by Eric Flock

  • With the draw-down of support for voice services, for FY2016 the discount rate for these services is now going to be 40% less than the discount rate for other services for each applicant.
  • Wireless data plans are eligible as long as the applicant can prove that it is the most cost-effective way of delivering internet access.
  • Site budgets are dinged at the time funding is committed, so if the money was not spent, it is important to file a form 500 to credit back to the sites’ budgets.

Direct BEAR Payment Process presented by Mick Kraft

  • Starting next July 1, BEARs will be submitted in EPC, payments will be made directly to applicants and those payments will only be made by electronic transfer.
  • Applicants will need to provide bank account information via the form 498, which will be available in EPC January 1.
  • Applicants will be required to have a DUNS (Dun and Bradstreet Number).

How to Prepare for an Audit by Denise Samuel

  • Applicants can prove their compliance with CIPA by providing a copy of the log that your internet filter keeps: it should show websites that have been blocked.
  • Keep a good inventory of the hardware you have purchased with E-rate money, especially where that equipment is located.
  • Avoid the gotcha of knowing you complied with all the program rules but can’t prove it due to lack of documentation.