MyNotes - #eRate Preso at #TCEA2012 and #Evernote Admiration

Earlier today, I had the chance to listen to Cathey George, an excellent speaker who managed to make what could have been a draconian march through the intricate maze of eRate deadlines, forms, and expectations a delightfully humorous adventure that had me laughing aloud. Simply, I didn't imagine eRate could be so much fun...and, in truth, it isn't. Cathey's accounts of what fellow Texas educators are doing, including one situation which prompted her to exclaim, "Man up!" to eRate staffers in school districts simply reminded me of a trail-side humor. Cathey George's presentation IS available online including 35 pages of eRate goodness in PDF.

Below are my notes on Cathey's preso, as well as an occasional photograph. I have to confess that the iPad + Zagg keyboard + Evernote (which makes it all possible) excels as a note-taking device! In truth, I'm amazed at how easy it was to incorporate images, and text. If you haven't embraced Evernote (no-cost), you'll want to watch this Classroom 2.0 LIVE preso on the subject and check out this Livebinder about Evernote. (Psst...Evernote developers, how about making it easy to share a note straight into Blogger as a blog post?).

Ok, back to always, since I "live-blogged" this, any errors in interpretation of statements/information/typos are mine, not that of the presenter.

Update 2/2012 - No one should take the following image as a "seal of approval" but...I do. ;-)
Thanks, Ginnie from @ESC12ERATE !

  • Understanding e-Rate Basics
    • Gen information
    • Tech planning
    • Application information
    • Deadlines
    • CIPA
    • Gift Rules
  • Where do I go for support
  • Open Forum for Q&A
Cathey George shares that support has shifted back to TEA because there isn't any more money to hire ESC-12 consultant. Cathey handles it for no money for the State. People need eRate answers or where to go, where to get information, and Cathey continues to fulfill that. She's not sure how long she will continue to be. Region 12 has opened a consultant service--it's been ongoing since 2005--and its grown quickly. Region 12 ERate consulting does everything for them...they've made over $2million of disbursed money. They are helping over 100 districts they try to solve.

There are many consultants...if you do business with us, though, the money stays in education.

e-Rate Timeline

  1. Commitments for eRate...make sure contracts are 15 months, not just 12, for time to complete internal connections. 15 months for internal connections, 12 months for everything else.
  2. USAC talks about it from July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013. 
  3. All contributions made by telecommunications carrier  have seen a 9% (brought up to $2.9 billion) increase.
  4. Roll over funding - FCC can roll over unused funds from previous funding years into the current funding year. In 2010, some districts received a declination letter, but then were sent a letter to allow funding for all applications.
  5. If I'm filing, am I wasting my time--and that of vendors--to answer your RFP for Form 470.
  6. State eRate Coordinator Alliance (SECA) - meet with USAC and discuss every other Monday and meet with FCC. They also meet with staffers --Gina Spade--and appeals usually have Gina's name on them. I'm happy and pleased to be a part of that. Let us know what the rollover money is before we apply...if we'd know that every application would be funded for 2010, that would have been great. Districts in 60% would have applied.
  7. Funding year 11 is going to go down too, too far. It may be 85% and up. Precious little rollover funding available. Everyone in the U.S. is going after that money.
  8. Schools, school districts, Libraries, and Library systems, consortia can file for eRate. I get a lot of calls that say we're starting up a new group--an individual company, not a 501-C30--and we're going to offer our services to students in a school. You can only qualify if you meet the state definition of elementary or secondary definition of a school, then you qualify. If not, no.
  9. eRate's Purpose - Get global resources to students in equitable way at a reasonable cost.
  10. You get 20% to 90% of eligible costs on eligible products and services. 
  11. Discount level for a school depends on 1) Percentage of students who are eligible for National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in the school and ; 2) Urban or rural location of the school.
  12. COMAD - Commitment adjustment is done with 90 days. That's where they come get money that your district may have taken if the district made a mistake.
  13. If you have 100 students, 50% are eligible for NSLP, then you get a 50% discount. You take that 50% discount and plug it into the Discount Matrix.
  14. Every student in your District is so important to the amount of your discount. The difficulty is that high school students don't turn the forms in. One of two things happening: Either your parents get a raise when they get to high school or they are not turning the forms in. "I don't want you to know that," students say, "I eat out of the federal lunch program." As a group of people, we need to be wise enough to resolve the gap between elementary and secondary students.
  15. Erate categories of Service:
    1. Priority 1 (P1) - funded first - everybody is funded based on demand, and with remaining money they go to priority 2.
      1. telecommunications services - only dark fiber is here. Miles of fiber optic backbone that is inaccessible because it was ineligible. Now, it's eligible and we can tap into private companies' dark fiber. Probably be another year or two, and they will stop allowing you to get POTS am I going to do what I need to do? If you listen to the Commissioner of the FCC (Julian Junekowski (sp?)). There is a whole list of eligible services...where are we now, where do we want to go, and what infrastructure do I need to build in to get with eRate. This is a long range plan for technology. You can only buy and put stuff into production. There are new rules about leveraging old equipment and how to liquidate (email me about that).
      2. internet access
      3. telecommunications
    2. Priority 2 (P2) - funding starts with neediest applicants. There's not a lot of P2 money left over since there is so much demand is priority 1. Everyone who is selling equipment is trying to change their priority 2 equipment to become a priority 1 service. Buyer beware...just because you heard it from a vendor, you have to struggle to understand what the program requires of you and that you're meeting the program rules. Someone stopped me yesterday and said they are pushing Priority 1 service and those were once Priority 2 services.
      1. Internal connections
      2. Basic maintenance of internal connections
    3. When you are getting a contract, make sure you have 15 months...otherwise you have to do extensions to do.
    4. basic maintenance is really to keep things up to snuff...maintain updated drivers. Most of don't have engineers in our school district that we employ. Districts get a contract with an engineer, and they come and upgrade the equipment to keep it maintained.
    5. Basic Maintenance is "work performed." If I get a $100K. It has to be eligible and in an eligible location...say it costs $100K. In prior years, you wrote a check and sent it off. If you didn't call the vendor, and they never come on site, no problem (back then). Now, you need a service ticket otherwise you won't get any money. If the vendor never shows up, they don't get paid.
    6. Basic services in eRate are allowable...Cisco Smartnet is no longer. Now you have Cisco Base, a base fee that can be paid in a one-time chunk without work performed to have tech support, get drivers, etc. Anything above CiscoBase has to be work performed. It's a base rate that outlines what you can do. Anything above that, they have to come in and pay that. 
    7. Basic maintenance contracts need to specify what is base services and what is work performed (above and beyond the base).
    8. USAC letter sends color-coded letters: 2011 is blue, 2012 is canary yellow, 2013 is pink. When storing documents, Cathey encourages us to separate program forms and letters by funding year to better organize them.
    9. Tech Plan Elements - A tech plan must contain the following elements:
      1. Goals and strategies for using technology to improve education
      2. Needs assessment
      3. Staff training
      4. Evaluation plan
    10. Are your campus STAR charts completed? Every single principal has to complete the STAR chart before you can do anything.
    11. Starting with FY2011, if you are only requesting P1 services, a tehnology plan is not required. If TEA comes up with discretionary funds, you don't get to play. A tech plan allows you to guide your district wisely. Get in there and do your tech plan!
    12. Your tech plan must be approved by a USAC-certified Tech Plan approver on or before the date when you begin receiving services or at the time you file the FCC Form 486--whichever date is earlier.
    13. 2 people at ESC have to approve it, and TEA has to approve it. It has to be done before June, 2012 for funding year 15.
    14. I would recommend you go in and print your eplan out every year.
    15. This is important because you have to evaluate your plan.
    16. FCC Form 470 Purpose:
      1. Opens a competitive bidding process
      2. Identify and describy desired categories of service and function of the services
      3. Describe scope of your needs
      4. Notify potential bidders of the types and quantities of services that you need.
    17. Be careful that your Form 470 must be robust enough that any vendor can make a bid based on it alone, without an RFP. if not, you need an RFP. In your boilerplates, make sure there is eRate language. An RFP can be about anything you want...but what I want you to take home, if you can't put enough info on Form 470 that the vendor can make a bid, then you must do an RFP.
    18. Need more specifics. Cathey George recommends that you have all these RFPs--questions and answers, too--on a web site and provide the web link in the Form 470. Everything must be fair and equal access to information. All questions answers will be given on a web page and provide the URL to everyone.
    19. If I don't get the bid, I'm going to do a Code 9 and do a whistleblower. Block 13 in Form 470 there is no limit on text. Put your evaluate rubric in there...that way you know how you are going to evaluate before you submit stuff.
    20. You must ensure that the competitive bidding process is open and fair. You must keep all incoming bids/correspondence with bidders and evaluate bids equally. Indicate in a footer when it was posted. If you do something before or after deadlines, you can be 
  1. Bid evaluation matrix (image below) - many schools call me and set up services. What is SPI? Must have company name and SPIN on all binds.
  2. May you want them to be in the State of Texas or local.
  3. Some large school districts have a mathematical weightedness. Some people do it subjectively. Both are OK.
  4. Choosing a Service Provider
  5. After you close the competitive bidding have 28 days. On the 29th day, you can evaluate bids, choose cost effective vendor and submit Form 471. Very specific...I get calls all the time. I didn't sign must sign contract before Form 471 is submitted. You can put things in a contract that are contingent upon certain priorities (must get funding for erate, etc that includes extenuating circumstances that would prevent committing the district).
  6. Ordering Services - Form 471: the purpose is to provide USAC with the info needed to select:
  7. provide info on service providers and eligible services you have chosen
  8. identify the eligible schools that will receive services
  9. calculate and report how much support you seek
  10. include discount info
  11. certify information
  12. Item 21 Attachment (part of block 5): the description of services associated with a funding request:
  13. Item 21 attachments can be submitted online, by fax, email or on paper
  14. Your attachments must be submitted by the close of the application filing window.
  15. Every block 5 must have an attachment...if you ask for 5 things, you will need 5 block attachments.
  16. PIA - Program Integrity Assurance. USAC check Form 471 for eligibility of schools and discount levels, verify that the services you requested are eligible for discounts, give an opportunity to make allowable corrections to your form, and ask for additional verification of your compliance with program rules.
  17. Receiving your funding commitment
  18. Following application review, USAC issues an FCDL to both the application and the service provider(s). Look at these carefully because it tells you what you are allowed to do and keep them!
  19. Applicant
  20. Form 486 Purpose
  21. Notify USAC that your eligible services have started or been delivered and invoices for those services can be processed and paid
  22. Provide the name of the TPA (Technology Plan Approver) that approved your technology plan
  23. Report your status of compliance with CIPA
  24. Form 472
  25. Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) - filed by applicant and approved by the service provider after the applicant has paid for the services in full
  26. Service Provider Invoice (SPI) - Form 474 is filed by the service provider after the applicant has been billed for the non-discount portion of the cost of eligible services. If you want to do SPIs, put it in the contract and require it there.
  27. Appplicants can choose their method.
  28. Requirements Before Invoicing USAC - you have to "man up" and tell whomever (Supe, Board, etc) that these must be done.
  29. FCDL is received by applicants and service providers
  30. Applicants must file an FCC Form 486 and receive an FCC 486 Notification letter
  31. Applicants must pay their portion of the invoice before filing a BEAR or Service Providers filing a SPI
  32. Service Providers must file an FCC Form 473 each funding year.
  33. Application Deadlines
    1. FCC Form 470 - Posted at least 28 days before the filing of the FCC Form 471, keeping in mind the FCC Form 471 application filing window oopening and closing dates. You have until February 21st to file 470s. You have one day to do everything. The close is March 20th, 2012 and your allowable contract date is March 19th.
    2. FCC Form 471 - Received or postmarked no later than 11:59 pm EST on the day of the close of the FCC Form 471 application filing window (exact date will be posted on USAC's website).
    3. FCC Form 486 - Received or postmarked no later than 120 days after the date of the USAC Funding Commitment Decision Letter or the service start date, whichever is later.
    4. FCC Form 472/FCC Form 474 - received or postmarked no later than 120 days after the date of the FCC FOrm 486 notification letter or the last date that the applicant can receive service from the provider in the funding year at issue, whichever is later.
    5. Appeals - received or postmarked no later than 60 days after the date of USAC's decision letter.
  34. CIPA Requirements - 
    1. Internet safety policy
    2. Address certain policy issues
    3. access by minors to inappropriate material
    4. safety/security of minors when using email, chat, etc.
    5. unauthorized access including hacking and other unlawful activities by minors online
    6. unauthorized disclosure, use and dissemination of personal info regarding minors
    7. measures designed to restrict minors' access to materials harmful to minors...whatever you call harmful to minors, decide what that is, and do it. Your school district make a decision how to do everything, put it in your policy and then show us a log of how you are doing it, what you've done...prove you've done.
  35. In your fi
  36. public hearing or meeting
  37. include a tech protection measure (filter)
  38. specific tech that blocks or filters internet access
  39. must protect against access by adults and minors to visual depictions that are obscene, child porn, or harmful to minors
  40. can be disabled for adults engaged in bona fide research or other lawful purposes. Retain documentation demonstrating that your filter is in place. This covers superintendent on down. This is defined at the local decision. If you judge YouTube harmful, then it is. If you don't, it's not. Just put it in your policy.We want to be inclusive of what is educational, and eliminate anything that is not.
  41. can be disabled for adults engaged in bona fide research or other lawful purposes.
  42. schools monitoring of online activities of minors
  43. technology protection measure (filter)
  44. Public notice of and public meeting or hearing on the internet safety policy. It's as simple as doing it a board meeting or anywhere where a public hearing can be held.
  45. Proposed policy must be addressed at a public meeting or hearing for which reasonable public notice was given. For private schools, public notice means notice to their appropriate constituent group.
  46. Tip: Retain document of public notice and documentation of hearing or meeting (e.g. board agenda, meeting minutes) and include date/time. Usually minutes are signed but don't have to be.
  47. How often do you have to have a public meeting? One time. If you make a major change, then you have to do more. 
  48. Additional Information on new requirements;
    1. New requirements come from the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which updated the CIPA
    2. Internet Safety policies for schools must be updated on or before July 1, 2012
    3. Social networking and cyberbullying are not defined, nor are specific procedures or curricula detailed for schools to use in education students
    4. Congress' intent is that local authorities should make decisions in this area
    5. Resources are available to assist in this process if needed -- e.g.
    6. Applicants must retain copies for at least 5 years and available to FCC if needed.
  49. Gift Rules
    1. 20/50 rule: "...Modest refreshments not offered as part of a meal, items with little intrinsic value intended solely for presentation, and items worht $20 or less, including meals, may be offered or provided, and accepted by any individuals or entities subject to this rule, if the svalue of these items received by any individual does not exceed $50 from any one service provider per funding year. The $50 amount for any service provider shall be calculated as the aggregate value of all gifts provided during a funding year." No free meals/drinks.
    2. widely attended event like a rodeo - TCEA falls into a not widely attended event because you have to pay for it. An example of "widely attended" is open to the public, and has nothing to do with  a specific event.
  50. Where to get help?
    2. click on support then go to erate listserv and join now.
    3. eRate Consulting - be careful of individuals as consultants.


The following notes are taken from Cathey George's presentation available online which includes 35 pages of eRate goodness in PDF...Wow! I'm exploring the presentation in advance of the actual face to face presentation to be held at TCEA 2012 to see what questions come to mind:

  1. Source: Cathey George, Texas E-Rate Co-Coordinator
  2. Presentation Agenda
    1. General Info
    2. Tech Planning
    3. Application Info
    4. Deadlines
    5. CIPA
    6. Gift Rules
  3. Commitments for eRate
    1. Funding year runs from July 1 through the following June 30. So, for example, it would be July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013
    2. USAC refers to the funding year as the year in which most services will begin. FY2012 is July 1, 2012, while June 30, 2013 (FY 15).
    3. Question: Not sure I get this. Is FY2011 referring to July 1, 2011?
  4. E-Rate Budget
    1. The FCC has set the fund at $2.25 billion for each funding year but it's adjusted for inflation since funding year 2010.
    2. Funding can be rolled over from previous years into the current funding year by the FCC
    3. Libraries, Library Systems, Consortia, Schools and school districts are eligible for funding
    4. Discounts on eligible products and services range from 20% to 90% of eligible costs
    5. The discount level for a school depends on two factors:
      1. Percentage of students who are eligible for National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in the school
      2. Urban or rural location of the school

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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