The following information may prompt district leaders to discover potential areas that need addressed and seek solutions to CIPA/E-Rate compliance issues. However, it is not intended as legal advice, professional training or consultation services.
E-Rate is a federal program that provides schools and libraries with discounts from 20%-90% on eligible telecommunications, Internet and technology products and services. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a non-profit that operates under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), confirms eligibility of schools and libraries and reimburses service providers.
In general, elementary and secondary schools—including public school districts, charter schools and many private and parochial schools—are eligible to apply. The E-Rate process includes deadlines for submission and certification. In addition, applicants are subject to audit.
Each step in E-Rate process is crucial. Proper preparation of the E-Rate application can be time consuming and meticulous. A minor error may present significant setbacks and even result in E-Rate infractions. Reputable consultants can provide districts with guidance in finding funds for connectivity needs. However, in the past, schools and districts have been caught in the crosshairs of E-Rate fraud. Districts are encouraged to form teams of staff members that are well-versed the E-Rate process and compliance requirements, and i-SAFE Direct solutions streamline communications among team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page while fulfilling statutory regulations.
E-Rate Application Process
Applicants must complete several forms to receive E-rate discounts. Steps and the associated FCC Forms include:
- FCC Form 470: Open the Competitive Bidding Process
- Sample Bid Matrix: Evaluate and Select Service Provider
- FCC Form 471: Seek Discounts on Eligible Services
- Program Integrity Assurance (PIA): Application Review and Follow-Up
- FCC Form 486: Confirm Receipt of Services and Compliance with Internet Safety Requirements
- FCC Form 472: Invoicing for Services
E-Rate Eligibility & Compliance Criteria
First of all, schools and libraries must meet statutory definitions:
- Schools must meet the statutory definition of elementary and secondary schools found in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 7801(18) and (38)).
- Libraries must meet the statutory definition of library or library consortium found in the 1996 Library Services and Technology Act (Pub. L. 104-208) (LSTA) and must be eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under that Act.
Secondly, schools and libraries must certify compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA):
- Internet Safety Policy – Schools and libraries must adopt and enforce an Internet safety policy that addresses all of the following issues:
- access by minors to inappropriate material on the Internet
- safety and security of minors when using e-mail, chat rooms, and other direct forms of digital communication;
- unauthorized access such as “hacking” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
- unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors;
- technology protection measures designed to restrict minors’ access to materials deemed as harmful to minors.
i-SAFE Direct AUP services goes beyond traditional paper-based forms to ensure that educators, staff, students and their parents or guardians not only have read the Acceptable Use Policy, which pertains to Internet safety, but incorporates training videos and resources to ensure that they have understood every aspect of the AUP. Administrators can pull real-time reports and monitor progress. Moreover, ISAFE Enterprises provides templates and tools to update and disseminate AUPs on the fly. Learn more at isafedirect.com.
- e-Safety Education – Schools are required to certify that they provide education for minors about appropriate online behavior including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.
ISAFE Enterprises was founded in 1998 as the leading provider of e-Safety instructional resources. Today, i-SAFE Digital Learning provides a comprehensive solution that enables district leaders and school administrators to ensure compliance with CIPA/E-Rate regulations while certifying implementation of mandatory instruction.
Learn more at isafeventures.org.
About E-Rate Discounts
To determine E-Rate eligibility and the discounted rate, school districts use FCC Form 471 to calculate and submit, to the USAC, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Careful calculations are advised.
“Schools, libraries, and service providers shall be subject to audits and other investigations to evaluate their compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements for the schools and libraries universal service support mechanism, including those requirements pertaining to what services and products are purchased, what services and products are delivered, and how services and products are being used.”
The primary purpose for audits is to ensure compliance with FCC rules and E-Rate program requirements. According to the USAC, audits are selected at random or target a geographic location or entities of a given size. An audit is not necessarily an indication that a problem exists. However, findings from audits may reveal non-compliance in any given area related to the E-Rate program inclusive of:
- Applicant eligibility
- Competitive bidding process
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP) discount calculations
- Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
- Delivery and/or installation of eligible products and services
- Technology planning, as appropriate (Funding Year 2014 and prior)
Common Audit Findings
Missing or inadequate documentation, invoicing USAC for ineligible products and services, insufficient Internet Safety Policy, untimely payment to Service Provider and products and/or services received by ineligible entity represent common audit findings.
How to Minimize Audit Findings
- Ensure that school policy and practices comply with all of the CIPA/E-Rate requirements.
- Maintain a copy of the school Internet safety policy or Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
- Retain all documentation that certifies compliance with the E-Rate process and CIPA/E-Rate eligibility requirements for a minimum of 10 years after the last date services are provided for a particular funding year.
- Obtain, organize and securely store copies of all records of contracts, services, billing, delivery, maintenance and cancelled checks.
CIPA Compliance & E-Rate
Before starting services, applicants must file FCC Form 486, Receipt of Service Confirmation and Children’s Internet Protection Act Certification Form. Schools will be found in non-compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act if the Internet Safety Policy does not address all of the elements required under CIPA. Moreover, CIPA requires schools to certify that e-Safety education on specific topics are being taught to minors.
Schools in over 4,000 school districts, nationwide, have used technology solutions, such as those provided by ISAFE Enterprises, to successfully certify instructors, deploy educational programming and report on implementation thereby validating CIPA/E-Rate compliance requirements. Go beyond compliance to ensure that the schools in your district are ensuring best practice in communication across stakeholders for all statutory regulations pertaining to technology in K-12 institutions. Contact us today.
About ISAFE Enterprises
ISAFE Enterprises is a hybrid organization (non-profit and for-profit LLC) focused on helping educational and commercial organizations comply with statutory regulations safeguarding child privacy. We offer a suite of technology services and solutions which enable identity management and age-appropriate e-safety instructional programming which meets and exceed regulatory requirements. We are on the cutting-edge of technology and education.
Learn more at isafeventures.com.