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FCC Grants Waiver for Applications Caught in Server Crash

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to accept more than 160 E-rate applications that were in the process of being completed when the Schools and Libraries Division's server crashed the night of the Year 3 filing deadline.

The FCC said that 168 applications, representing a pre-discount funding total of $73 million, were completed on Jan. 20. Another 27 applications have been identified in which the applicant began its application on Jan. 19, but never finished it. The FCC said that it would grant waivers to the first group of applicants, as well as to applicants that could demonstrate that they had taken steps to report their problem to the SLD or to their state e-rate coordinator by midnight Jan. 20. In addition, it said it would give the latter group another 30 days in which to complete their applications.

In a filing to the FCC, the SLD had suggested approving the applications of those schools and libraries who, it argued, could have completed their applications by midnight if the server had not crashed. After doing some tests with a staff member, the SLD concluded that an application with 27 or fewer funding requests could have been completed in the final half hour, and suggested granting waivers to those whose applications had 27 or fewer funding requests. That approach, however, did not sit well with some of the aggrieved applicants, including the Cleveland School District and the NorthCarolina Department of Commerce, filing on behalf of schools in that state.

The FCC concluded: "We do not believe, however, that there is an equitable way to determine how applicants would have proceeded had the server not crashed. As a matter of fundamental fairness, we decline to impose any FRN limitations on applicants, and therefore we are compelled to ensure that all applicants who, despite their diligent efforts, were unable to file and complete their applications solely because of the SLD's server failure receive full consideration as in-window applicants."

In its decision, the FCC noted that some applicants had not completed their applications on Jan. 20 because they may have received "conflicting advice" when they called the SLD's "Help Line" or may have been told not to file their application until they received further information. The FCC also instructed the SLD to "take proactive measures to ensure that, in the future, its online filing capacities are sufficient to handle the demand for online filing, throughout the entire duration of the filing window."

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