On November 20, 2012, the FCC granted appeals submitted by Euclid City School District and Shannon County School District. In both cases, USAC found that the school districts had violated E-rate competitive bidding rules by not having price as the highest weighted evaluation criteria. Instead, each school district had the evaluation of price equally weighted with other evaluation criteria. USAC was seeking to recover FY 2009 and 2010 disbursed funds from Euclid City School District and had denied FY 2011 funds from Shannon on this issue.

Technically, the SLD was correct; these school districts violated E-rate rules. However, the FCC noted that the record was also clear that these applicants still selected the lowest priced responsive bid, stating that the “…outcomes of their vendor selection process were consistent with the policy goals underlying the Commissions’ competitive bidding rules…” Further, the FCC noted that there was no evidence of waste, fraud or abuse.

For many years, the FCC would have denied these appeals simply on the basis that the school districts violated the program rules and would not dig any deeper to find out the facts or specifics of the cases. However, over the last few years it has been clear the FCC recognizes that the E-rate program is complex, and oftentimes E-rate coordinators at school districts wear many hats and are just doing the best they can. I applaud the FCC on this common sense approach, and hope this will continue in the future as they review appeals on other issues.