Additional roadblocks and impediments to submitting timely and accurate funding requests are coming to light as more applicants use the new EPC system. Some challenges are the result of design choices. For example, the interlocking nature of applications (i.e. USAC’s “Parent-Child” hierarchy system) has created a virtual puzzle of sorts, requiring some applicants to update their information and submit their applications before other applicants can prepare their own. Other challenges are the result of the on-going, real-time development of the system. New feature rollouts and bug fixes themselves can result in new errors.
Below is a list of some of the current challenges applicants are facing:
- Additional RFP Documents Cannot Be Shared with Vendors. Applicants report issues uploading RFP documents after the submission of a Form 470. Applicants attempting to upload additional specifications or amendments receive the following EPC Error “Add an RFP Updates Not Permitted At This Time”
- Incorrect Count of Internet Connections. Applicants applying for a direct Internet connection that serves all sites cannot correctly enter their service information. EPC requires the applicant to assign a circuit to every site. Therefore, instead of one Internet connection, the applicant must report 1 x N connections, with N equal to the number of sites in the school or library system. Applicants then are required to either incorrectly report the per unit price of the service, dramatically inflate their funding request, or falsely describe the service. USAC has not released any official guidance on how to proceed. [Note: users of cable modems face a similar challenge because EPC does not allow applicants to request discounts for cable Internet speeds higher than 100 Mbps.]
- Contracts Cannot Be Corrected. Contracts entered into EPC cannot be edited, hidden or deleted. Mistakes in data entry result in bad data permanently populating the contract field in EPC. Because these contracts cannot be suppressed, it increases the likelihood that the incorrect contract data will be referenced on a funding request and/or may haunt an applicant in future funding years.
- User Permissions Change Spontaneously. Applicants report that user permission levels change without warning or authorization. These permissions determine if a user can see or edit FCC forms within EPC. Compounding this issue is the fact that users and authorized consultants are unable to see their own permission level. The SLD Customer Service Bureau (CSB) cannot fix these spontaneous changes. The only existing solution is to contact the applicant’s EPC administrator and request that they restore the user’s initial permission settings.
- Inaccurate Forms Concerns Applicants. Applicants submitting 471 applications report errors in the PDF view of the applications. These errors include Non Instructional Facilities appearing on the PDF with internal USAC identifier numbers beginning with 333. Other PDF errors include site enrollment changing to zero and dark fiber FRNs changing to Internet access. Applicants are concerned that the version of the form in their records is not accurate.
- Changed NIF Requires New Form 471. Many facilities previously classified as Non Instructional have been changed to school sites in the EPC system. CSB reports that it cannot correct this issue once an application is filed. Applicants in this situation are advised to cancel the original Form 471, contact CSB to request the site entity type be corrected, and submit a new Form 471 application after CSB has changed the site back to Non Instructional.
- Consortia Forced to “Serve” Individual Sites. The Form 471 does not allow consortia to identify recipients of service as the district level, and instead requires them to click on each district, then each individual school within that district as recipients of service – even though the consortia does not provide service to the building level. In essence, this is requiring consortia to provide false information on their application in order for them to proceed. It also increases the workload associated with these applications.
- Libraries Cannot Apply. Approximately 9,500 independent libraries were incorrectly classified by USAC as library systems within EPC. The libraries cannot file until this is corrected and they cannot fix it themselves. Instead, each potential applicant must identify the issue, contact CSB and then wait for USAC to correct their mistake.
- Entities Disappear from Form 471. Applicants continue to report that sites are missing from their Form 471 application even though they appear in the portal.
- Save & Share Leads to Locked Forms. Once selected, “Save & Share” emails a link to a Form 471 to all individuals granted access. If any individual clicks the link in the email, they become the new owner of the form. Frequently the user does not realize they have “grabbed” the form, which makes it extremely difficult to return it. Because EPC does not report who currently has access to a Form, the user must contact the account admin who must then contact every potential editor to identify who grabbed the form and then ask them to “Save & Share” again.
- Users Locked Out. Applicants continue to experience “session errors” in which EPC locks them out of the system for an hour.
- Old Bulk Upload Templates Voided. USAC recently took down the bulk data upload functionality from EPC to replace it with a new template. Work done in the old template must be deleted and recreated in the new template.
- Admin Account Changes Delay Process. The CSB is reporting delays of up to several days in establishing an EPC administrative account for an applicant. Password resets have reportedly taken as long as 48 hours.
- FCC RN Requirement Prohibits Form Submission. Applicants that do not have an FCC RN are unable to post a Form 470. The EPC system will error out without it.
- Extra Administration for Applicants with Consultants. The EPC system does not allow a consulting firm to manage permissions for the firm’s staff. This requires the applicant to authorize every staff member of consultant’s firm. This requirement leads to additional delays and frequently intersects and compounds other issues, such as the spontaneous User Permission changes and delays in resetting admin passwords.
- News Feed Overwhelms. Applicants and consultants reports that communications via the EPC news feed is overwhelming and inadequate for dissemination of time-sensitive information. USAC representatives indicate that there is currently no planned cleanup effort of the news feed.