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USAC 2015 Fall Training Highlights: Washington DC

USAC holds annual training sessions for E-rate applicants, focused on program rules, updates, and best practices. Below are highlights from this year’s applicant training in Washington D.C.

Opening Remarks and Introductions by Mel Blackwell

  • USAC anticipates that the window will open around the same time as last year, beginning in January 2016.

EPC Demo Presented by Catriona Ayer

  • USAC is planning a special “File Along With Me” set of news briefs to help applicants step-by-step through the application process.
  • USAC emphasized that EPC is still under development, and that continued changes/updates to the tool should be expected. No expectation given for how long significant updates to the EPC tools will continue to be released.
  • USAC hopes to move PIA review communication into EPC soon (in addition to email communication), allowing for the communication to be archived and accessible to any future users, for that entity.
  • By default, USAC plans to give state E-rate coordinators “View” permissions in EPC for all applicants in their state.
  • The association between a consortium member and leader, within EPC, does not take the place of, or serve as the required written authorization, such as an LOA.
  • USAC plans to add functionality for consortium lead to link or add their consortium members within EPC. USAC also plans to add the ability to “refuse” a consortium membership/relationship.
  • The consortium lead Block 4 NSLP data will be updated automatically, as the consortium member entities file/update their individually filed applications. If the consortium application has already been filed, it will be updated post-filing, without the need of a RAL.

EPC 470 Demo Presented by Catriona Ayer

  • USAC is planning to stop using postal service for letters and use the EPC portal instead.
  • Form notification/acknowledgement letters should soon become available immediately after form is filed in EPC.
  • USAC reminder: if you have an RFP, it must be uploaded to the corresponding 470 in EPC, not just linked.
  • All RFP addenda must be uploaded to a Form 470 in EPC as well.
  • USAC is developing a new tool (outside of EPC), for downloading posted Forms 470.
  • Small changes in quantities are not necessarily ‘cardinal’ changes in the scope of a Form 470.

EPC Form 471 Demo by Catriona Ayer

  • Applicants will need to enter the information for E-rate contracts in a separate EPC tool, and then copy the data into the 471 tool.
  • Contract info and documents (including amendments) uploaded to EPC will be available to USAC reviewers and auditors.
  • Updates to 471 Block 4 data will be made outside of the 471 tool, in the organization entity landing page.
  • USAC now has multiple long descriptions to choose from when identifying the purpose of data circuits on the Form 471 
  • On the new Form 471 tool, cost will be calculated on a ‘per item’ basis, not a ‘per bill’ basis.

Fiber Options Update by Eric Flock and Joe Freddoso

  • Eric Flock covering fiber options and new rules.
  • The cost of fiber options must be compared against the same time frame (yrs.) when looking at dark vs. lit fiber.
  • Self-provisioned fiber and modulating equipment must be listed on the same Form 471, if both are being sought.
  • Refresh of existing fiber electronics on an existing owned fiber networks is not a ‘special construction’ project and does not require a companion lit fiber bid.

Overview of FY2016 Eligible Services by Eric Flock

  • The voice services phase-down for FY2016 will be 40 percentage points lower than the regular Category One discount rate.
  • Installation of C2 equipment can be from a different vendor than it was purchased from.
  • Mobile data is only eligible if 1) most cost-effective method of broadband, 2) a WLAN install is impossible.
  • Category Two budgets can change from year-to-year, based on student population.

Direct BEAR Payment Process by Mick Kraft

  • After July 1, 2016, BEAR funds will be electronically transferred to applicant bank account after form approval.
  • The company officer or bank account holder cannot be the consultant
  • USAC will gather bank account info from applicants after the new FCC Form 498 is release (anticipated Jan-May timeline).
  • Applicants will need their Federal EIN/Tax ID and their Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number to complete the new Form 498.

Tips to Prepare for Audits by Wayne Scott

  • USAC plans to shift the audit process to focus on more current funding years, to alleviate searching for records/documentation.
  • Auditors will have access to the documents that applicants upload into the USAC EPC.
  • Audit site visits will usually span around 2-5 business days. Not all audits will require a site visit.
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