The Federal Communications Commission has formally adopted the recommendation of the board of directors of the Schools and Libraries Corporation that a window of 75 days be established during which all requests from schools and libraries for
The Federal Communications Commission has formally adopted the recommendation of the board of directors of the Schools and Libraries Corporation that a window of 75 days be established during which all requests from schools and libraries for E-rate funding will be given equal priority. The agency made the announcement in a public notice released on Nov. 6.
The window's clock will start ticking the day the SLC Web site officially becomes operational. Representatives of the National Exchange Carrier Association, which is supervising development of the site, had expected the site to be ready in mid-November. But that date has been pushed back indefinitely because of delays associated with the development of the funding application forms for schools and libraries.
The window is designed to put requests for funds for existing contracts and new contracts on an equal footing and to reduce some of the pressure that had been generated by an earlier "first come, first served" rule. Schools and libraries will first file what is known as a Form 470, certifying their eligibility for funding and describing the services they want to receive. Under FCC regulations, requests for new contracts must be posted to the SLC Web site for 28 days, to give interested providers a chance to bid on them.
After the 28-day period, schools and libraries must then file a Form 471, with their detailed request for specific funding. The date that form is filed will become the determining factor in setting the priority of requests, after the initial funding window is over.
While NECA wants to encourage electronic filing, it was argued that it could not give priority to electronic filers over paper filers. In addition, because of the requirements for certified signatures and contract attachments, it was believed that the Form 471 would have to be filed in paper form.
At the SLC's Oct. 21 meeting, NECA declined to make a prediction on when the Web site would be operational. Previously, it had said the site would be ready in mid-November, assuming that the application forms were approved by Sept. 30. However, the FCC has still not finalized the forms. Once the forms are approved, they must still be subjected to a two-week review by the Office of Management and Budget.