On Thursday October 29th USAC presented the New Orleans 2015 E-rate Applicant Training session – below are some highlights:

Opening Statements by Mel Blackwell

  • Theme this year is Change, Mel feels program changes are (were) overdue
     
  • There are several keys to making the process better:
    • WiFi and closing the Wifi gap
    • Making E-rate dollars go further
    • Making application process easier
       
  • Looking to take 35-40% of the manual processes out of the E-rate application process
     
  • Filing window dates won't likely be announced until December but it will likely mirror last year's Jan to March (original) schedule
John Noran spoke about the new EPC Portal
  • The goal of EPC is to improve the customer experience and streamline the process
     
  • In advance of the Window opening, applicants can enter Site Lists, NSLP, and other information in the Portal Profile section so that data will be ready and easily imported into applications
     
  • USAC will try to have a template function for Block 5 up and running in time for the Filing Window
     
  • Only a Full rights user in EPC can certify forms. Partial or View Only users cannot; however, the applicant is in full charge of who has what level of access in the EPC system.
     
  • The way to access the EPC Portal is through the website portal.usac.org. If you haven't set up your EPC account, this is STEP ONE of the FY2016 Form 471 filing process. The account manager at your enitity hould have received an email (by now) with instructions to do this – if not, call the CSB (888) 230-8100
     
  • FYI: creating a whistleblower case in EPC is NOT anonymous – if you want it to remain anonymous call in your case to the CSB
     
  • Q&A highlights –
    • Consortia info access and entry, the lead will be able to see the member information but does not have to be the one to enter it all – members can enter their own information.
    • Apparently Applicants can see more information than just what pertains to their entity, i.e. more than they're supposed to be seeing or need to see – John Noran will look into this situation

Eric Flock walked through entering the Form 470 on the new EPC Portal

  • Applicants can add a technical contact in the Form 470 without having to list that person as an EPC user
     
  • There's a nice little “circle-y” thing to show users that EPC is “working”
     
  • Allowable Contract Dates will now be shown on all of the finished forms (as of two weeks ago)
     
  • Eric tried to convince them to add a “check-all” button on the 470 Certification page but lost that battle with Legal – thanks for trying Eric!
     
  • Q&A highlights:
    • Narrative section of 470 is one section for ALL of the line items on the 470 – be specific in this section when requesting multiple services
    • If you have addenda to RFPs posted on EPC the addenda MUST be uploaded to EPC as well. In addition, USAC would like to have any RFP Q&A docs uploaded as well, but this is not a program requirement.
    • To circumvent the RFP requirement when selecting the Dark Fiber service during the 470 process, use the “other” option

John Noran demonstrated entering a Form 471 in the EPC Portal

  • Applicants will need to upload documentation to support a selection of Yes indicating there is a reason they will not be sharing pricing information
     
  • You cannot have both Categories on one application – if you're doing Category 2 this year you will have to have more than one Form 471
     
  • The Form 471 Prototype in EPC did get a Tariff or Month To Month option in time for the demonstration “road show” but these will be options at some point soon
     
  • RAL corrections process will be available in EPC for 471 process
     
  • Q&A highlights
    • Spreadsheet options in the works for Block 5 and for student counts/Block 4
    • C2 budgets or budget remaining (based on committed FY2015 amounts) shows in EPC Form 471. File a Form 500 to return unused FY2015 funds.
    • NIFs are uploaded in the EPC system currently but they are not associated with the correct entity – Applicants can provide a list of NIFs to the CSB and they will associate the NIFs for Applicants.

Eric Flock w/Joe Fredosso discussed Fiber options

  • Lit Fiber services prices are coming down in areas where a comparison between Lit and Dark has been performed; the market is changing for the better regarding costs
     
  • Dana Schafer and Joe are available to help with exploring options and getting the right fiber solutions for applicants
     
  • Change to Fiber options are designed to help all applicants “meet their needs” for bandwidth
     
  • E-rate will now pay in full one-time up-front special construction charges in the first year
     
  • New requirement in effect to compare Lit AND Dark Fiber options, and applicant has to pick the most cost-effective solution – no more Dark-only or Lit-only procurements
     
  • Self-provisioned networks must seek bids for Lit services on the same 470 and compare bids to the total cost of ownership over the life of the facility.
     
  • Eric Flock spoke on understanding Eligible Services
     
  • Circuits dedicated to Voice Services are still a hot topic – if a circuit is QOS or prioritizing voice, that circuit does not require a cost allocation. If strands are dedicated they must be allocated. Bundled voice and internet access provision get with the vendor to see what percentage is actual voice service transmission to allocate that percentage.
     
  • LAN controller license for using the equipment, USAC can pay for the multi-year license in the first year. Licenses for maintenance functions, only 1 year would be eligible under basic maintenance (BMIC).
     
  • BMIC support only eligible for actual work performed
     
  • Installation may be provided by a third party.
     
  • ISDN was added to Voice Services for the 2016 Funding Year
     
  • Firewalls priced separately from Internet service is eligible but only as Category 2
     
  • Internal Connections
     
  • Q&A highlights:
    • Part-time students – new guideline is “Peak Part-time” students which alludes to the maximum number of students using the service at a given time. e.g. if there are 50 part-time students 25 who go in the a.m. and 25 in the p.m. The Peak part-time students are 25 students.

Mick Kraft discussed the new Direct BEAR Payment Process

  • July 1, 2016, all invoices are due to be input in EPC. Paper BEARs will no longer be processed after that date.
     
  • Applicants must provide account information to USAC for EFT processing to occur
     
  • Contact Information Section
    • Company Officer – cannot be a consultant
    • General Contact
    • Bank Account(s) – cannot be a consultant's account
       
  • Applicant ID Section
    • EIN/Tax ID number – most applicants will have this already
    • DUNS number
    • FCC Registration Number – most applicants will have this already
       
  • Bank Info Section
    • Name of Institution
    • Checking Account Number
    • Routing Number
    • BEN/Name