Is it Worth Filing an Appeal?
One of the most common questions from stakeholders regarding appeals is the following: "Is it worth my time filing an appeal?" The answer is easy: "Absolutely!"
For the past several years, the FCC has been fairly flexible and granted literally hundreds of appeals when an applicant has made various mistakes, as long as the applicant did not engage in waste, fraud, or abuse. In fact, just this week the FCC released appeal decisions tied to service delivery extensions where the applicants were unsure of the process of how to request an extension. The applicants extended their contracts with their service providers and filed a Form 500 to alert the SLD they had extended their contracts, however, they never sent the SLD a letter requesting the extension. The FCC granted the appeals because the applicants "…attempted in good faith to comply with the Commission rules…"
Should the appeal be filed with USAC or the FCC?
Another common question asked regarding appeals is "Should I appeal to USAC or directly to the FCC?" If you believe the SLD misapplied the rules or is missing relevant information, appeal to USAC first. USAC will typically respond within 90 days of receiving the appeal, and if denied, you can then appeal to the FCC. However, if you were denied because of a program rule or policy violation, the SLD has little flexibility and it would be more appropriate to appeal directly to the FCC. Unfortunately, while the FCC has been willing to grant appeal decisions, the process can be slow and it can take years before a decision is rendered.
Who is able to file an appeal?
Most appeals are filed by applicants. Many service providers do not realize that because they too are an aggrieved party, they have the right to appeal any SLD decision that impacts them.
How quickly does an appeal need to be filed?
Upon receiving any SLD decision, stakeholders have 60 days to file an appeal with either the FCC or USAC. Many applicants are surprised at how quickly 60 days can pass by. It is important to begin working on the appeal and make a decision regarding where to file the appeal as quickly as possible.
The Sixth Report & Order was released in late September 2010, and with it came many updates to E-rate rules and regulations. In addition, the FCC released new versions of the Form 470 and Form 471 which will be used for the first time in FY2011. Since the FCC released the Order, the SLD has issued guidance and various clarifications, but with the multitude of changes and the Form 471 application deadline of March 24, it is likely that a few mistakes will be made along the way.