The Universal Service Administrative Company announced May 8 that it has awarded the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) a three-year contract to provide programmatic support for the E-rate program and the rural health care program.
USAC spokesman Melvin Blackwell said E-rate applicants should notice no changes because NECA, based in Whippanny, NJ, has provided program support since the start of the E-rate program in late 1997. NCS, which operates the Schools and Libraries Division's processing facility in Lawrence, KS, has been a subcontractor to NECA. Support for the rural health care program had previously been provided by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, but since the Schools and Libraries Corporation and Rural Health Care Corporation were merged into USAC in January 1999, USAC has wanted to consolidate these operations under a single vendor.
USAC said that NECA's contract, valued at $61.6 million, is expected to reduce its administrative costs by approximately 25 percent. Blackwell said the contract includes provisions for better customer support through such items as improved voice response equipment.
The contract includes contingency language in case the programs are terminated before July 2003, but Blackwell said the expectation was that they would continue for the life of the three-year contract.