Three months after the deadline for completing installations with E-rate funds from the program's first year, the Federal Communications Commission has decided it will give certain kinds of applicants addition time to install "non-recurring services–" in most cases, internal connections.
On Dec. 28, the commission said the Sept. 30, 1999 deadline would be extended in these cases:
- When an applicant filed a successful appeal, but did not receive their year-one funding commitment until on or after April 4, 1999. Such applicants will have 180 days from the day they they received their funding commitment to complete their installation.
- When an applicant's request to change year-one service providers was not approved until on or after April 4, 1999. Again, applicants would have 180 days to complete their installation after they received notice that their service provider change had been approved.
- When an applicant's funding commitment had been approved, but disbursements were held up until issues that were uncovered in post-commitment reviews were resolved, either late in the funding year or after the year had ended. The FCC directed USAC to identify cases in which applicants had submitted the proper paperwork but disbursements were not made until on or after April 4, 1999. Those applicants will be notified that they will have 180 days in which to complete their installation.
In implementing the policy, the FCC also had to waive its requirement that any invoices be submitted no later than the end of the first quarter of the calendar year following the year in which the costs were incurred. Otherwise, USAC would not be able to disburse funds to cover these exceptions after March 31, 2000.
On Sept. 29, USAC told the FCC that funding commitment letters totaling $16.7 million had been issued in July to 398 applicants whose appeals had been determined to be meritorious. During the week of Sept. 22, it issued an additional 25 funding commitments, totaling $23.9 million. And, it said, as many as 62 additional applicants could qualify for $5.5 million as the result of appeals. In addition, the FCC had not finished its review of year-one appeals that were submitted to the parent agency.
In the September filing, USAC also said that in July it had issued funding commitments totaling $5.1 million to 39 applicants whose applications "were incorrectly processed" or whose applications were rejected prior to commitments being made. It said it expected to send out letters worth $4.5 million to 101 applicants "imminently" and an additional $1.1 million to nine applicants "in the near future."
On Nov. 4, USAC said the extension needed to be provided for another class of applicants-those who had been waiting for the Schools and Libraries Division to rule on their requests to change service providers. USAC said that after April 4, 1999, it had approved changes in service providers for 2,241 separate funding requests, worth $63.6 million.
Five days later, on Nov. 9, USAC identified another group that needed relief. It said it had held up approximately $1.2 million worth of commitments to about 150 applicants after determining that it might have made a mistake when it approved their commitments. After review, it said, it determined that all of the commitments were made in accordance with program rules. But, it said, in some cases, applicants had suspended their purchases until the questions were resolved.
"As a result of these delays," the FCC said in summing up its decision, "and due to no fault of the applicants, there was insufficient time before the September 30, 1999, deadline for the applicants to complete implementation of non-recurring services. Many of these applicants simply were unable to receive completed services in that time. Thus, enforcing the September 30, 1999, deadline would deprive the students and patrons of these applicants of the benefits of the communications technologies their funding commitments would otherwise make possible."