E-Rate News Brief

May 25, 2023

•  E-Rate Search Tools. USAC will be sunsetting the legacy Search Commitments Tool in June 2023. The tool has been replaced with the Open Data E-Rate Search Commitments Tool, which went live in March 2023. USAC will also be sunsetting the legacy SPIN Search Tool in June 2023.  Service Provider information, including the status of the SP’s Annual Certification (SPAC), can be found in the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) or using the Service Provider Download Tool.

•   Appeals of FY2023 USAC Decisions. USAC began issuing Funding Year (FY) 2023 funding commitment decision letters (FCDLs) on April 28, 2023. If you disagree with a USAC decision on your FCDL, USAC must receive your appeal within 60 days following the date when USAC issued the decision (i.e., within 60 days of the date of the letter). For more information, see the E-Rate program appeals guidelines.

•  June 30, 2023 is the last day to receive recurring services for FY2022. If the same service provider will continue to provide your recurring service after June 30, you must use the Funding Request Number (FRN) approved for FY2023 when you are invoicing for recurring services that start July 1, 2023.

•  Invoicing Service Certifications. Requests from the Invoicing team for Service Certifications must be returned by an authorized applicant under the billed entity number (BEN), regardless of form type (SPI/BEAR). Service Providers: Please ensure that you work with the applicant and provide them with the invoices that support your billing request to USAC so that they have all the information they need to certify the services via the Service Certification form.

•  FCC Form 498 Update for Applicants. USAC updated the applicant version of the FCC Form 498 on May 12, 2023, to include a field for the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). Applicants that modify their form or submit a new form after May 12 are required to obtain a UEI. See the April 21, 2023 E-Rate News Brief for more information.

•  The FY2023 FCC Form 473 (Service Provider Annual Certification (SPAC) Form) is now available in the E-File System. Service providers must annually submit and have a SPAC Form on file before USAC can pay invoices – FCC Forms 472 (BEAR) or FCC Forms 474 (SPI) – for a particular funding year. Service providers who want a copy of their certified form should click the PRINTABLE PAGE icon at the top of the page to save or print their copy before exiting the form. View the FCC Form 473 User Guide for more information.


Commitments for Funding Year (FY) 2023 and FY2022

FY2023. USAC released FY2023 Wave 4 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) on May 18. As of May 24, FY2023 commitments total over $1.20 billion.

FY2022. USAC released FY2022 Wave 54 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) on May 10. As of May 24, FY2022 commitments total over $2.83 billion.

On the date that FCDLs are issued, you can access your FCDL notification from the Notifications section of your landing page in EPC.

Summer Contact Period ("Summer Deferral") Starts May 26

USAC processes program forms and requests as promptly as possible in order to issue timely decisions. If information is missing or incomplete, we may request additional information and/or documentation about your form or request. During this time of year, our most common reason for initiating contacts is to obtain more information about your FCC Form 471 to complete Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviews.

PIA questions are posted in EPC. You will also receive an email from EPC notifying you to respond to the questions. Full- and partial-rights users on the organization's account can see and respond to the PIA questions. If we have questions for you, you can access them in several different ways:

  • Click on the hyperlink in the email from EPC.
  • Open the Tasks menu from any EPC page and choose the task that has a link to the questions.
  • Review the Pending Inquiries grid on your EPC landing page to locate the questions.
  • Open the Review Inquiries menu at the top of your certified FCC Form 471.

Starting May 26, if our first attempt to contact you is on or after May 26, and we do not receive a response to our questions, we will put your application on a deferred status and will continue the review of your application sometime after September 9. This is known as our “summer deferral period,” which extends from the Friday before Memorial Day (i.e., May 26, 2023) through the Friday following Labor Day (i.e., September 8, 2023). During this period, please note:

  • You can always contact us or respond to our pending questions to restart the review of your application if you become available before September 9, and we encourage you to do so to expedite the review of your application.
  • If the PIA reviewer has already contacted you and you wish to designate someone to answer questions in your absence, be sure to send your designee's contact information to your PIA reviewer. If the PIA reviewer has not contacted you and your designee will be checking your messages, be sure that you have provided written authorization for your designee to answer questions about your application.
  • If the PIA reviewer makes contact with someone representing your organization but that person is not in a position to answer PIA questions, they should clearly state to the PIA reviewer that the review of your application should be put on hold until you are available.

If our first attempt to contact you was before May 26, the non-summer deferral PIA review process will continue, and you will be required to timely respond to PIA requests. Please respond promptly to any PIA requests for information or documentation. During the summer deferral period USAC will only continue reviews of forms and requests where documentation has already been received or participants have responded to information requests sent in EPC. If participants do not respond during these periods, the form or requests will be placed in a deferred status until the deferral period ends, at which time we will continue our regular review process.

Responding to Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) Review Questions in EPC

In the April 2023 E-Rate News Brief, we provided an overview of the PIA review process. In this issue, we are including details about receiving and responding to PIA questions in EPC.

Receiving your PIA questions
EPC sends an email to let you know that questions are available through the EPC News tab.

The notification in the EPC News tab reads: From the FCC Form 471 Review Team. The notification includes identifying information from your form, along with your PIA reviewer's name, telephone number, and a hyperlink to your questions (the blue bar at the bottom of the notification).

TIP: Enter "471 Review Team" in the News search function and hit the Enter key to locate these notification(s) more easily.

You can also locate your questions in the My Tasks section of your landing page. The hyperlinked name for each task is "Respond to Notifications for FCC Form 471 [form number]."

The News item hyperlink will take you to the complete list of PIA questions, but the My Tasks hyperlinks take you to individual questions. For example, if you receive five PIA questions, you will see a list of all five questions if you use the News search option, and five separate tasks if you use the My Tasks option.

If you submitted more than one FCC Form 471 that requires PIA review, you will receive a separate set of questions for each form. However, if the same question applies to all your forms, your reviewer can link that question so that you only have to answer it once.

Accessing your questions
Click the hyperlink on the News tab in EPC to access the Summary page of the FCC Form 471, then click the Review Inquiries hyperlink to access your PIA questions.

The Review Inquiries page is the applicant's dashboard (repository) for all PIA questions for each application. Click on the hyperlink from the Tasks tab to access the dashboard directly. You can also select the Records tab, then FCC Form 471, then search for your FCC Form 471 number using the search function. When you locate your form, click the FCC Form 471 Number hyperlink and then  Review Inquiries from the top navigation.

You can perform the three following actions from the Review Inquiries page by clicking the appropriate button at the top of the page:

1. Click on the "Respond to Inquiries" button to view and respond to your PIA questions.
When you click on this button, you will see the Pending Inquiries and Submitted Inquiries dashboards. These dashboards list the status of the PIA outreach, which includes the type of outreach, the date the reviewer sent the notification, the response due date, and the reviewer's name and telephone number. You will know if someone in your organization has viewed the inquiry because a blue eye icon will appear in the "Read" column.

  • "Pending" inquiries are questions submitted by the PIA reviewer to the contact person.
  • "Submitted" inquiries are responses you submitted to the PIA reviewer.

When you select a pending inquiry, a template is displayed listing the PIA question(s) associated with that inquiry. You can enter your answers within the template, upload supporting documentation (a single document or multiple documents), and/or provide additional narrative information.

The system allows you to begin to work on your answers and then save your work for later by clicking the Save & Close button. To return to your work, choose Review Inquiries while in the FCC Form 471 record.

  • Only one user can work on a specific inquiry at one time, although different users can work on different inquiries simultaneously.
  • One user can allow another user to review and/or edit their work by saving the draft response as described above and then exiting the inquiry.

You must provide complete answers and respond to all the questions. Contact your PIA reviewer if you are unsure of what to do or if you need clarification.

  • If you do not respond to your PIA reviewer’s questions within seven days – or your response is incomplete – you will receive a reminder notification and your state E-Rate coordinator will also receive a notification.
  • If you have not responded after 15 days and have not requested an extension (see below), we may process your application with the information on hand, which may lead to a reduction or denial of funding.

After you have finished your response, you can send it to the PIA reviewer by clicking the Submit button. Your submitted response will then appear in the Submitted Inquiries dashboard. To expand this dashboard, click the Submitted Inquiries header.

2. Requesting an extension of time to respond
You can request more time to respond to your PIA review questions. We will automatically grant a seven-day extension for your first request, and EPC will adjust your original 15-day response due date and display the result.

Subsequent extension requests are not automatic but must be reviewed by a PIA manager. If you require a second extension to respond to your PIA review questions, please reach out to your reviewer to explain the reason for the second extension. If we grant your request, EPC will feature the extended date on the Review Inquiries dashboard. If we deny your request, our denial message will appear in the comments section at the bottom of the original PIA News notification.

3. Submitting a request to modify FCC Form 471 information
To provide additional information or correct existing information on your FCC Form 471 in advance or during the process of responding to PIA questions, you can submit modifications to your FCC Form 471 by clicking the Submit Modifications Request button on the Review Inquiries page.

Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) Reminders

In last month's E-Rate News Brief, we discussed the certifications on the FCC Form 486 (Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) Certification Form). Several of the certifications refer to compliance with CIPA. We are providing the following reminders of the requirements for CIPA compliance so you can make the appropriate certification(s).

Requirements of CIPA
CIPA has three basic requirements:

1. Internet safety policy: Schools and libraries must adopt and enforce an internet safety policy that includes five specific elements and a technology protection measure or filter (see Item 2 below). If you already have an internet safety policy or acceptable use policy, you can amend your existing policy to include the required elements. The policy must address the following:

  • Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the internet or World Wide Web
  • Safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications
  • Unauthorized access including "hacking" and other unlawful activities by minors online
  • Unauthorized disclosure, use, dissemination of personal information regarding minors
  • Measures designed to restrict minors' access to materials harmful to minors.

"Minor" is defined as any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years.

For schools, the policy must also include monitoring the online activities of minors. Schools also certify that their internet safety policies have been updated to provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, cyberbullying awareness, and response.

2. Technology protection measure: Schools and libraries must enforce the use of a technology protection measure (i.e., a filter or a technology that blocks or filters internet access) on all their computers with internet access. The filter must protect against access by adults and minors to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or – with respect to the use of computers with internet access by minors – harmful to minors. The filter can be disabled during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.

3. Public notice and public hearing or meeting: Schools and libraries must provide reasonable public notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposed internet safety policy. Additional hearings or meetings are not necessary – even if the policy is amended – unless required by state or local rules or by the policy itself.

Certifying compliance with CIPA
The administrative authority for the school or library must certify compliance with CIPA.

  • For a school, the administrative authority may be the school, school board, school district, local educational agency, or other authority responsible for administration of a school.
  • For a library, the administrative authority may be the library, library board, or other authority with responsibility for administration of the library.

The administrative authority can certify the status of its compliance with CIPA on the FCC Form 486 if it is applying for E-Rate discounts directly (in other words, if it is the billed entity).

If the administrative authority is not applying directly – for example, if it is a member of a consortium that applies on its behalf – the administrative authority certifies its compliance on the FCC Form 479 (Certification by Administrative Authority to Billed Entity of Compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act Form). The administrative authority then provides a copy of the completed FCC Form 479 to the entity applying on its behalf. That entity can then accurately make the appropriate CIPA certification(s) on its FCC Form 486.

Timing of compliance with CIPA
In the first year a school or library receives E-Rate funding for internet access and/or Category Two services, the school or library can certify that it is undertaking actions to be compliant with CIPA for the next funding year. In the second (next) funding year, the school or library must certify that it is compliant with CIPA, unless state or local procurement rules or regulations or competitive bidding requirements prevent the making of the certification. In the third funding year, the school or library must be compliant with CIPA.

Documentation of compliance with CIPA
Below are some examples of documentation that may be requested to demonstrate CIPA compliance during an audit. The school or library should retain copies of the documentation for each funding year where a CIPA certification is required. Note that documents must be retained for at least 10 years after the latter of the last day of the applicable funding year or the service delivery deadline for the funding request.

  • A copy of the internet safety policy or acceptable use policy, including documentation of the adoption of the policy.
  • A description of the filter technology protection measure and a report or other documentation on the use of the filter technology protection measure. The documentation should show that the filter was installed and working during the funding year (i.e., reports from the service provider of Internet sites blocked, bills from the service provider verifying that the filter was operational, etc.).
  • Documentation that the school or library gave public notice and held a public hearing or meeting on the policy – for example, an advertisement of the meeting and a copy of the meeting minutes.
  • Copies of the FCC Form(s) 479 and/or FCC Form(s) 486, as applicable.

If you have questions about this information or for additional help, you can contact USAC's Customer Service Center (CSC) at (888) 203-8100. You can also refer to the CIPA page on the USAC website.

Selective Review Overview

Each year, some applicants undergo a selective review as part of USAC's review of their FCC Form 471. Selective review is a separate component of the application review process and can run concurrently with a PIA review. In general, the purpose of selective review is to verify that the applicant followed the required competitive bidding process and that it has the necessary resources to make effective use of the requested services. However, selective review may also verify compliance with other program rules.

Selective reviews take place at the billed entity level. If you as the billed entity are chosen for a selective review, we will review all the FCC Forms 471 that you certified for the funding year.

Below we will cover the process of receiving the selective review notification and the deadline for responding.

1. USAC issues the selective review questions.
If your billed entity is chosen for a selective review, the contact person on your forms will receive an email from notifying them that a Selective Review Information Request (SRIR) is available in EPC. The subject line will include the FCC Form 471 application number(s) and the words "E-Rate Review Information."

You can access the SRIR by clicking the link provided in the email. After you log in to EPC, you will be able to access the SRIR.

2. You confirm receipt of the SRIR.
The reviewer will confirm with the applicant contact person that the SRIR was received. You can confirm receipt by calling or emailing the reviewer using the reviewer's contact information featured on the email notification.

3. You respond to the selective review request and provide the appropriate documentation.
You can enter answers to the selective review questions in the fields provided in the SRIR in EPC. The questions asked are generally the same for all selective reviews.

For answers that also require documentation, you can upload documents or files by clicking the Choose File link or the +Add Document link and following the instructions.

If USAC has additional questions, we will contact you with another inquiry through EPC detailing the information needed.

4. You can request an extension if needed.
As with other reviews, you can request an extension of time to respond by choosing the appropriate extension option in the SRIR. Your first request is granted automatically for an additional seven days. The contact person can ask for a second extension, but that extension must be approved by USAC.

E-Rate Training - Recordings Available on Demand

Below are recent on-demand recordings from our Webinars page. You can view the recordings by clicking the Watch button next to the session or the Play button on the graphic under Most Recent Webinar.

PIA and Selective Review Process Webinar
April 25, 2023

This hour-long session provides an overview of the Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) and Selective Review processes for the FCC Form 471 and steps to prepare for them.

E-Rate SL Systems Consolidation: Kick-off Webinar
April 27, 2023

E-Rate staff discusses the system changes, who is affected, the implementation timeline, and how USAC will support applicants and service providers throughout the invoicing transition from SL Legacy systems to EPC.  

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