Dear School, Library and Telecommunications Leaders
Dear School, Library and Telecommunications Leaders:
This week, the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company will issue its first funding commitments on E-rate applications submitted for Year Two.
We are pleased to confirm that there is sufficient funding to fill all approved requests for "Priority One" services – those for telecommunications services and Internet access. We will work through "Priority Two" requests (internal connections) beginning with the needier applicants first – those at discount levels 80% and above.
Waves of Funding Commitments
This year, we will send letters to applicants and service providers in waves as soon as we have approved requests on telecommunications services and Internet access. This means you could receive one or more letters, depending on how your application was structured. (For more details, see "Questions and Answers About the Waves" on the SLD Web site, www.sl.universalservice.org.)
Even as Funding Commitment Decisions Letters begin to flow, a small number of applications are still in the data entry process. This means that some of you may not have received a 471 Receipt Acknowledgement Letter. We anticipate completing the data entry process soon. All applicants can be
assured that sufficient funds are being set aside for each and every application received within the window for "Priority One" services. Furthermore, if your request for internal connections is at the same
discount level as those in previous waves, you also can be assured that there is sufficient funding for your application.
A Wave of Funding Commitments Every Week
This year, I am pleased to announce that letters will be mailed on a weekly basis. We heard from you that regularity and predictability were essential for your planning purposes, so every Friday, regardless of wave size, the SLD will mail out a wave of commitment letters to applicants. Every Monday we will post the lists of recipients to our Web Site. The exception is the first wave: it is being issued the day it is ready. This means two mailings in the first week.
What Can You Do to Speed the Process?
Believe it or not, we need your help to complete processing your applications. If you will be gone over the summer months, please update your information in our Summer Contact database, so our problem resolution and Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) team can reach you in the event they
have questions regarding your Year Two E-rate application. Service providers can also search the database by Billed Entity Number if they need to reach you during this same period.
You may register your summer contact via the Web Site (www.sl.universalservice.org) or, if you don't have Web access, by calling our help line (1-888-203-8100).
Applicants can also help us out by returning calls to our PIA team as quickly as possible. A call from a member of our PIA team means your application is now being reviewed for compliance with program rules, but that there is a question about your request. A phone call or any needed documentation returned in a timely fashion will help us finish our review sooner rather than later.
Appeals and Special Situations for Year One
Even as applicants across the country are beginning to hear about their Year Two funding commitments, we are wrapping up a number of loose ends from Year One. These include:
Those who filed appeals regarding your Year One funding commitments have either heard back from us or will hear from us this week.
Applicants intending to use the summer "grace period" for non-recurring internal connections and other commitments should file updated Forms 486 for these services, to extend the contract end date to no later than 9/30/99.
Many applicants whose contracts for recurring telecommunications and Internet access services expired before December 31, 1998 will qualify for six additional months of funding – but they must act quickly. The deadline for filing an updated Form 486 for these services is July 16. (See the Web site for details.)
Working Hard to Serve You Better
We are continuously trying to improve, so that the E-rate application process is easier and more efficient for both service providers and applicants. We have made a number of positive changes based on your comments over the last year. These include.
On-line filing for the Form 471: Our pilot launch in Year Two was a significant success despite its narrow technical requirements. We will be expanding the online Form 471 to include a broader range of browsers and Apple Macintosh computers for next year.
Bar-coding and scanning technologies: We are making it easier for our customer service and application review staff to track applications and answer questions.
Electronic notifications: Service Providers can receive the Form 471 Receipt Acknowledgement Letters, the Funding Commitment Decisions Letters and Form 486 Notification Letters electronically.
Regional PIA Representatives: We have reorganized Program Integrity Assurance teams by region so that they are familiar with state and local issues that affect E-rate discounts.
All of these new features allow us to distribute discounts more quickly and efficiently.
There is still plenty of room for improvement. We will be convening an advisory group soon to focus specifically on customer service. In addition, we are already planning improvements for Year Three. We are grateful for the good advice from the Year Three Task Force of applicants and service providers, and from those of you who took the time to respond to our, "Help Us Improve the E-rate Program for the Future" query we issued in March. We
will keep you informed about improvements for the 2000-2001 program year as these are finalized.
As we move to bring Years One, Two and Three to the next critical stages, we want to thank you for your own remarkable efforts to make this program work. Your diligence, optimism, and frank feedback have been absolutely essential to our shared mission to fulfill the promise of the E-rate for every American community.