FCC Opens Second 2020 E-Rate Funding Year Window

Other E-rate program waivers extended to year’s end

The FCC last week announced the opening of a second funding year 2020 filing window to allow schools to request additional E-rate funding specifically to address increased on-campus bandwidth needs. The second 2020 filing window will allow schools to purchase additional bandwidth to help with 1:1 student-to-device ratios in the classroom, live streaming to students at home, and it will expand the use of cloud-based educational tools and platforms. The second filing window opened on September 21 and will close on October 16, 2020.

During this expanded 2020 window, schools may only request E-rate discounts for additional on-campus Category One Internet access and/or data transmission services needed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the urgent need for these services, schools may submit FCC Form 471 during the second funding year 2020 application window requesting E-Rate discounts without initiating a new competitive bidding process for the requested services if: (1) the school or library has already submitted a Form 470 application for the services; (2) the school or library has received a Funding Commitment Decision Letter approving a funding year 2020 funding request for eligible Category One Internet access and/or data transmission services from that Form 470; and (3) it requests additional E-Rate discounts during the second application window to purchase additional bandwidth through the existing service provider or a new one.

For the second funding year 2020 window only, USAC will accept bids where the price per megabit is the same or less than the original contract. If the price per megabit is higher, USAC will limit the funding to the price per megabit in the original contract.

Gift Rule and 30-Day Extension Requests Extended
As well, the FCC has extended the waiver of the E-rate program gift rules through December 31, 2020:

  • During the extended waiver period, service providers can continue to offer, and E-rate program participants can continue to solicit or accept, broadband connections, Wi-Fi hotspots and other devices, networking gear, system upgrades, or other things of value that could help students, teachers, and patrons while schools and libraries prepare for extended remote learning and remain fully or partially closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • In addition, service providers may offer, and schools and libraries may solicit or accept, gifts of additional bandwidth through December 31 to meet the increased on-campus connectivity needs of schools and libraries in response to the pandemic without running afoul of the E-rate program rules.

The order also provides a 30-day extension, if program participants can provide an explanation of the need for the extension, for information requests issued between September 1 and December 31 related to the following:

  • Pending USAC appeals;
  • Invoices;
  • Pending FCC Form 500 requests, including service substitutions, Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) changes, or funding request cancellation requests;
  • Audits, including BCAP and PQA audits; and
  • PIA requests.

If you have any questions about the second 2020 funding window or the extended waivers on the E-rate program rules, please contact Chresanthe Staurulakis at 301-459-7590 or Terri DeLong at 512-338-0473.