USAC conducted the second-to-last training session of the fall 2015 season in Philadelphia on November 10. Attendance at the event appeared to be good, and attendees seemed to be engaged and prompted good discussion. A few notable takeaways from the training include:
- Fiber connectivity is the topic of the day! The presentations included a good deal of useful information for applicants regarding the different types of fiber service, as well as the eligibility requirements for each. It would appear that the FCC is genuinely interested in expanding the options schools have available for broadband activity in the upcoming funding years.
- Explanations and demonstrations of the new E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal were helpful. EPC marks a dramatic change in program procedures and administration, and while it is fair to say that there are some growing pains, USAC seemed very eager to assist applicants with the use of the new tools and features.
- The introduction of the direct BEAR payment process was met with positive remarks from the crowd. While the process will require applicants to prepare another program form (FCC Form 498), the indication was that everyone believes the process should be much smoother. USAC did encourage vendors to submit feedback regarding potential checks and balances in absence of the existing vendor BEAR certification process.