Action Required on Several E-Rate Process Changes

JSI alerts clients to several upcoming changes to the E-rate certification, invoicing and funding processes and to the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal. These changes are part of the FCC’s ongoing E-rate modernization efforts, which began late last year (see our January 14, 2016, e-Lert for more information).

Form 473
Beginning July 1, 2016, service providers will submit their annual E-rate certification forms (Form 473) to USAC online rather than submitting paper forms. Companies will find the online Form 473 in the E-File section of USAC’s homepage.

Carriers will need to log on and certify Form 473 for funding year 2016 (FY2016) after July 1, but before any E-rate invoices are submitted to USAC for FY2016. If you have not yet certified your company for FY2015, you may still complete the existing paper form. Because the certifications will be changing, if you already submitted your FY2016 Form 473, you will need to resubmit the new Form 473 online after July 1.

Invoicing Process Changes
Also beginning July 1, 2016, service providers will no longer certify the Billed Entity Application Reimbursement (BEAR) forms and all E-rate invoices for FY2016 and beyond must be submitted and processed electronically. At that time, the current BEAR invoice process will change significantly and all pending online BEAR requests will be canceled. Therefore, between now and July 1, service providers should check for and certify any pending BEAR forms to prevent school and library customers from having to resubmit the invoices after the process change.

Beginning July 1, school and library customers will certify the BEAR forms and USAC will directly process the invoices, as well as pay reimbursements to school and library applicants. BEAR forms submitted to USAC prior to July 1 may still be reimbursed through funds issued to the service provider for up to two weeks following the BEAR submission date. Therefore, it is possible that carriers will receive BEAR payments and need to issue customer credits for payments received in the first few weeks of July.

Despite these changes, service providers will continue to see BEAR forms in their E-file form area after July 1. While service providers have no obligation to do so, USAC is encouraging them to continue to review these forms for accuracy, and report any discrepancies between customer payments and invoice amounts to the customers and USAC.

Funding Commitment Decision Letters
USAC indicated on a webinar yesterday that it plans to add a new notification section to the EPC portal landing page. USAC will post Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) in the new notification section once complete.

The FCDLs will include a .csv file containing all of the information previously provided on the Funding Request Number (FRN) report. When a Form 471 request for E-rate funding is approved, USAC will notify the general contact listed on the provider’s Form 498 via email that the FCDL has been posted.

If you have not yet established your company’s EPC login and password, you should do so as soon as possible. Once you have established your EPC access, consider designating JSI as your consultant so that we can better assist with E-rate tasks.

If you need assistance with any of these E-rate activities or anything E-rate related, please contact Dee Dee Longenecker in JSI’s Texas office at 512-338-0473.

Source: JSI e-Lert