News flash: calendar year 2020 is half gone. I’m a bit torn on how to feel about that – on one hand, it seems hard to believe that it’s already July, and I had really hoped to have a little bit more done by now.  On the other, I’m kinda ready for 2020 to be over for good (seriously, just pick any reason why – they’re all good. Mercy.)
 
Nevertheless, E-rate rolls on.  USAC has rolled out the FY2021 FCC Form 470, and although 2020 has been one for the record books there is no reason to delay preparations for submitting FY2021 Form 471 applications shortly after January 1.  To that end, here are a few things to consider in preparation for a new Funding Year:
  • Review your current contracts. Do your current service agreements cover Funding Year 2021 (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022), or will you need to secure new contracts?  Is your current level of service adequate, or do you anticipate needing bandwidth increases?
     
  • Make a Category Two plan. The FCC’s Category Two reform gives applicants more flexibility and predictability.  All applicants’ Category Two budget caps will be implemented in five year “blocks,” with the first running from FY2021 through FY2025.  This allows applicants to implement predictable refresh cycles and forecast budgets accordingly.  Remember – all applicants will have their full C2 budget available starting in FY2021 and the application process should be much simpler, so there is no reason not to sketch out a plan for taking full advantage of C2 discounts!
     
  • Get ready for multi-factor authentication. USAC’s EPC and BEAR tools will go behind MFA on July 27. In order to prevent processing delays, it is suggested that applicants prepare by determining how they would like to receive MFA authentication codes (via primary e-mail, alternate e-mail, or phone message) and add noreply@usac.org to their safe senders list.  You may also consider wrapping up any BEARs, PIA responses, or other activity prior by Friday, July 24 just in case the roll-out causes any service interruptions (over the weekend or beyond.
Prepared applicants are successful applicants!  By taking some time this summer to chart out a FY2021 plan, you can ensure higher-quality (and less stressful!) applications this winter.