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SLD Provides Further Guidance on Service Provider Changes

The Schools and Libraries Division said July 31 that it will continue to review requests to change service providers under the rules it had in place before March 16 while it waits for further clarification from the Federal Communications Commission on its policies in this area.

On that date, the FCC appeared to be relaxing the requirements for changing service providers in a decision on an appeal involving the Copan, OK, school district. The FCC said, in essence, that it could not predict every instance in which an E-rate applicant might need to change providers and so it would authorize changes if the applicant had notified its first provider, if it could get out of its original contract and if the change was in line with its state and local procurement regulations.

The SLD immediately asked the FCC to clarify several aspects of the decision, and changes have been on hold ever since.

In its latest announcement, the SLD said that it would continue to approve changes that met its original criteria while waiting for FCC guidance on policy changes. Under the original rules, an applicant could change providers if the vendor had breached its contract, gone out of business or declined to participate in the E-rate program. Such a change must be permissible under state and local procurement rules. Further, if there is no substitute vendor available from among those that responded to the applicant's original Form 470, the applicant must post a new Form 470.

In cases where an applicant believed that the vendor had breached its contract, the SLD said the applicant would have to notify the vendor and give it the chance to rectify the problem before initiating the change. In no case can the applicant request additional funding. Details of how to request a change are available on the SLD Web site.

The SLD said it will not deny any requests for changes at this time, but will defer decisions on proposed changes that do not meet its original criteria until the FCC supplies further guidance.

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