The Federal Communications Commission has granted a reprieve to more than 150 Oklahoma school districts whose Year 3 applications were rejected after the SLD determined that there were certain irregularities associated with them.
The FCC said that "since the affected applicants may have been unwillingly prejudiced by the actions of their proposed service provider during the application process," it would waive the Year 3 filing deadline for the applicants. The agency said that the affected applicants could file new Form 470 applications by Sept. 11, 2000, and then must file their Form 471 applications by Dec. 11, 2000. In addition, it said, they could not request more funding than they had sought in their original application. The FCC said it has waived its regulations on the filing deadline only once before, to provide relief to applicants who were filing their applications online when the SLD's server crashed the night of the Year 3 filing deadline.
The FCC said that the affected applicants had all entered into contracts for distance learning services to be provided by AT&T and Mastermind, though not under a subcontractor or reseller relationship. The SLD said AT&T had agreed to allow Mastermind to serve as the point of contact in negotiations with the applicants as they prepared their funding requests.
In a July 7 letter to the deputy chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, the Universal Service Administrative Company said that AT&T had notified USAC that its standard rate and term sheets were altered before being provided to the applicants by Mastermind and that prices were increased. This, USAC said, created "material discrepancies" in the prices and services being represented to applicants and the services and rates actually offered by AT&T to Mastermind. This, it said, would result in excess universal service funding be appropriated for the applicants. USAC said that as best as it could determine, neither AT&T nor the affected applicants had been aware of the discrepancies.
In a footnote, the FCC said, "We stress that this order does not represent formal findings of fact or a finding of any liability or wrongdoing the part of any party to this action, including Mastermind. The Administrator has indicated that it may consider referring specific instances of program fraud, waste or abuse involving Mastermind to the commission for formal investigation and/or enforcement action." The FCC also said that if it determined that an applicant was aware that Mastermind had made misrepresentations, it would take "all appropriate action" against the applicant.
You can see the full text of the FCC decision by clicking here.