California Takes the E-rate
A Summary of E-rate news and events
A positive outcome of the CDE’s 8-site, 24-session statewide E-rate/CTF training schedule is apparent. County office of education E-rate leads report a higher degree of knowledge and interest in E-rate and CTF among their district applicants. The VET (Volunteer E-rate Trainer) group that delivered the training is meeting to discuss ongoing support and future services the VET collaborative might provide.
January 18, 2001 is the last day to POSTMARK all Form 471 materials not filed online. December 20, 2000 is the absolute last day to file a Form 470 and still maintain the 28-day response period prior to the Form 471 – not a wise strategy!
A November 15 letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin went to each district superintendent and county superintendent, urging them to maintain currently approved technology plans as posted on the CDE website (http://www.cde.ca.gov/erate/, choose "see if your COE or district has a certified plan").
Year 3 internal connections will not reach 81 percent. California has secured over $460 million in Year 3 commitments, by far the largest of any state, due to increased participation and due to some large district awards. There should be one or two more "waves" in Year 3 (into December?). The un-used funds from Year 2 are supposed to roll forward into subsequent funding years (unlike the $448 million overage in Year 1 which went to reduce collections), but the details remain unclear.
The new SLD eligibility list is dated November 16 (http://www.sl.universalservice.org/data/pdf/y4esrvlist.pdf) and supercedes prior versions. Some major clarifications include:
(a) Video equipment (except end user equipment) is now broadly eligible as necessary to transmit video to the class or library. This includes PVBX (Private Video Branch Exchange) to integrate video onto the network.
(b) Modems are eligible if they are not installed in end user equipment.
(c) Modem cards are eligible if used in or with eligible equipment (not with on in end user equipment).
(d) On-site technical support is conditionally eligible if it is a part of a maintenance agreement for eligible equipment, and it must specifically identify the eligible equipment.
(e) Personal digital assistants (e.g., Palm) are not eligible.
(f) Internet telephony (VoIP – Voice Over IP) is not eligible. This includes the components that convert voice to IP.
(g) Cabinets to house eligible equipment are eligible, as are racks to hold them.
(h) CODEC is eligible if part of an eligible component.
(i) E-mail software is now eligible.
(j) Directory assistance: Calls to 411 (directory assistance) are eligible.
(k) Fire alarm telephone lines are not eligible.
(l) Inside wire maintenance agreements are conditionally eligible.
Please see the list for more complete explanations.
Relief for Legitimate Lateness
In an Order released on November 1, 2000, (DA 00-2444), the FCC recognized certain categories of applicants that, through no fault of their own, had not been able to meet the September 30, 2000 deadline for receipt of non-recurring services for Year 2. The order established a new deadline of September 30, 2001 for such categories of applicants. The order acknowledges that some applicants did not receive their funding commitment decision letters, or a determination on their service provider changes or service substitution requests from USAC in time to implement non-recurring services. Additionally, some applicants may have been unable to meet the September 30, 2000 deadline because their funding disbursements were delayed while USAC investigated the applicant’s program compliance, or because their service provider was unable to complete implementation due to reasons beyond the service provider’s control (http://www.sl. universalservice.org/whatsnew/default.asp#111400).
Security Code(s) for Form 471 Clarified
When filing the Year 4 Form 471 online, the security code is given on the screen once Block 1 is completed. Security codes for an applicant’s Year 3 Form 471 will bring up a view-only version of last year’s Form 471. If you have forgotten your Year 3 security code, the Client Service Bureau may be able to provide it, but it is not guaranteed, due to other priorities during the Year 4 application window.
(a) Appeals: The FCC is issuing more appeal decisions that include instructions to the SLD, in effect asking the SLD to justify why they issued a denial in the first place. The SLD processes the vast majority of appeals, and most applicants, if denied by the SLD, do not escalate it to the FCC. Commentary: FCC appeals are not to be taken lightly, and they should be reviewed by the applicant’s legal counsel. However, if the issue is related to flawed policy interpretation or is significant enough (precedent-setting), then applicants should proceed to the FCC. Review existing appeals to see the format. Involve your county office of education or the CDE, if they can provide additional rationale to support your appeal. The FCC learns about the SLD’s work in large part by the appeals that reach the FCC.
(b) Deadlines and project management: Extensions granted by the FCC (e.g., September 30 for internal connections work but not ISP or telecomm) and extensions for delays beyond the applicant’s control have created new levels of complexity because new deadlines also affect the deadlines for the forms associated with the services (e.g., Form 486, Form 500, or BEAR). Commentary: Most of the un-used funding commitments are due to inadequate project management and/or to applicants in the highest discount ranges requesting more than they can utilize. The "cost" applicants ultimately pay for discounted services, especially with internal connections deployment, often lies in personnel — applicants must provide adequate personnel resources to manage discounted projects in a timely and audit-resistant manner.
(c) New equipment, new service providers: The FCC and SLD are wrestling with two ongoing realities: goods and services change faster than the eligibility list, and there are many more legitimate reasons for an applicant to change service providers in mid-contract than are currently listed in by the SLD. Commentary: It is important in communicating with the SLD that the applicant use language from the SLD eligibility list if at all possible when describing an item to determine its eligibility (especially if it’s a new or upgraded version with functional equivalency). Also, the awaited Copan decision will clarify the conditions under which an applicant can legitimately change service providers in mid-contract. Both these issues, combined with the various extensions, may be moving the E-rate program toward a "windowless" operation in which the local procurement standards play a greater role and the application process becomes ongoing.
(d) Taxes: Most school districts and county offices of education are exempt from having to pay specific taxes (e.g., federal excise, city/local taxes) on communications bills. This is clear in the Internal Revenue Code. The larger telcos appear to have identified most of its customers in this category and already removed those taxes from the final bill. Commentary: Check your telephone bill. If the federal excise tax or other city/local taxes appear, there is a good chance you will have to notify your telco to send you the exemption form to trigger the removal of these items. Like in the case of E-rate and CTF, your local telco representative may not be knowledgeable about this exemption form, but it exists and is commonly used.
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