California Takes the E-rate
Training Reaches the Regions, California Awash in Discounts, FCC Slaps Vendor
Van Wilkinson, California Department of Education
Training about E-rate and the lesser-known California telecommunications discount program (California Teleconnect Fund, CTF) is scheduled for a region near you. Check the California Department of Education (CDE) website (http://www.cde.ca.gov/vet/) for contacts and registration information.
Presenters at all these trainings represent CDE’s Volunteer E-rate Trainer (VET) collaborative, consisting of the CDE, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Department of General Services (DGS), four VET vendors (Cisco Systems, Ed.Min.com, Spectrum Communications, and Verizon), plus other well-known vendors and public school E-rate leads. Whether a person has been to prior E-rate/CTF training or not, there will be new information presented at these sessions, and attendance is advised for all who are using E-rate or CTF or who plan to apply.
The training materials used at these events have been assembled primarily from the federal E-rate authorities (Schools and Libraries Division) with new, California-specific information added by the Volunteer E-rate Trainers (VET) collaborative members, who will have roles in presenting at each event.
The training locations were selected through the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA). There are two Specialized Sessions for Experienced E-rate Leads (no beginners -- must have filed before and have deep familiarity with the programs). One is September 12 at the Los Angeles COE and one is September 19 at the Solano COE. Both sessions run 8:45-3:00.
There are six General Sessions, each from 8:45-4:00, with two tracks running concurrently, one for pure beginners and one for those with some E-rate/CTF experience. These are set for September 13 (San Diego area), September 20 (Sacramento COE), September 27 (Tulare COE), September 28 (Mendocino COE), October 11 (Santa Barbara COE), and October 12 (Riverside COE).
Even if you have prior E-rate/CTF experience, you will find important new information about program priorities and compliance not readily available elsewhere. Also, such a wide variety of trainers presenting in a vendor-neutral setting provides an unique opportunity to dialogue about your issues.
No beginners. Designed expressly for experienced E-rate/CTF personnel who have filed before and have significant knowledge of E-rate and CTF. This 1-day event has sessions covering: Eligible/Ineligible Services, Contracts and State Procurement Options, Working with Vendors, Deciphering Phone Bills, and Dispute Resolution (PIA, audits).
- September 12, 8:45-3:00, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Room 237, 9300 Imperial Highway, Downey, CA 90242, Contact Vic Placeres (562) 401-5382 .
- September 19, 8:45-3:00, Solano County Office of Education, 5100 Business Center Drive, Fairfield, CA 94533, Contact Pat Currier, (707) 399-4433 .
General Sessions (Outreach)
Beginners and Experienced. Two separate half-day tracks, one for pure beginners, one for those with experience. Tracks run concurrently and repeat, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Stay for both tracks move through the entire sequence. The track for those with experience includes step-by-step details of applying for California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) discounts and using the California Multiple Awards Schedule (CMAS).
Download the entire 8 sessions on PowerPoint at (http://www.cde.ca.gov/vet/9-5-00.htm).
- September 13, 8:45-4:00, San Dieguito Union High School District, 710 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas, CA 92024, Contact Skip Sharp, San Diego County Office of Education, (858) 292-3539 .
- September 20, 8:45-4:00, Sacramento County Office of Education, Board Room and PC Lab, 9738 Lincoln Village Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827, Contact Bob Carter, (916) 228-2378 .
- September 27, 8:45-4:00, Tulare County Office of Education, 2637 W. Burrel Avenue, Visalia, CA 93278, Contact Rick Moynahan, (559) 733-6032 .
- September 28, 8:45-4:00, Mendocino County Office of Education, 2240 Eastside Road, Ukiah, CA 95482, Contact David Yacawych, (707) 467-5075.
- October 11, 8:45-4:00, Santa Barbara County Office of Education, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93160, Contact Ray Kirchmaier, (805) 964-4711, x5251 .
- October 12, 8:45-4:00, Region 10 (San Bernardino, Riverside, Inyo, Mono), pending.
The "window" for filing the Year 4 Form 471 is expected to open in early November 2000 and close by mid Janaury 2001. The Form 470 can be filed any time after July 1, 2000, so there should be lots of E-rate activity beginning for Year 4 as you read this.
Awash in Discounts
At no prior time have there been so many telecommunications discount options available to public K-12 schools. As of August 2000, California E-rate applicants have received over $811 million in E-rate discount commitments over the three years of the program (Year 1, approximately $206 million; Year 2, approximately $251 million, and Year 3, to date, about $354 million). This includes libraries and private schools, which account for a small percentage of the totals. Some of the larger applicants, such as Los Angeles USD, have helped boost Year 3 totals far above projections. The largest percentage of discounts is for internal connections (the cable plant and network hardware installations).
In the three years of CTF discounts, approximately $27 million has been encumbered for reimbursement to the vendors who are extending CTF telecommunications discounts.
The good news is that these discounts are allowing deployment of high-capacity networks and large bandwidth connectivity to the Internet in many schools that could not otherwise afford it. The warning, one sounded before, is that long-term sustainability must be built in to these networks if we expect to find them in a useful condition in the future.
FCC Slaps Vendor
In an unusual turnabout, a large telecommunications carrier (AT&T) reported to the FCC that a company with which it had affiliated to bundle distance learning and Internet access was overcharging clients for the AT&T portion of the package.
E-rate applicants who named Edumaster.net, dba Mastermind Center or Mastermind Internet Service, as their service provider suffered because the service provider was found to be using practices that resulted in "excess universal service funding being appropriated for the applicants, and thus would amount to wastage of the fund" (CC Docket No. 96-45, adopted July 21, 2000 by FCC). Their applications were pulled, even though they had no knowledge of the improprieties occurring at the vendor level.
The affected applicants, some in California, have until September 11, 2000 to file new Form 470s and start the process again. They must complete the filing of their new Form 471s by December 11, 2000.
The lesson here is "applicant beware" of the tempting packages some vendors may assemble to make the E-rate application process tantalizingly easy and/or all-encompassing. A wise path may be to include specific contract language between the applicant and vendor to the effect that if the vendor is found to be acting outside the E-rate rules, then it may be held liable for forfeited discounts. Of course, the wisest path is for all applicants to have their contract language checked through legal counsel.
These topics will be covered in the E-rate/CTF Specialized Sessions trainings for experienced E-rate/CTF applicants referenced at the start of this article.
Van Wilkinson is with the California Department of Education Educational Technology Office. He may be reached at (916) 323-4709 or by e-mail at