The Schools and Libraries Division formally announced Dec. 21 that it will now be reviewing E-rate applicants' requests for service provider changes under relaxed criteria that the Federal Communications Commission approved last March in the so-called Copan appeal decision.

Under the new criteria, SPIN changes will be permitted when an applicant can certify that the change in contractor is permissible under state and local and procurement rules, that the change is permitted under the terms of its contract with its original provider and that it has notified that provider that it is making the change. Applicants will not be restricted to using providers who responded to their original Form 470 posting.

Previously, the SLD only approved SPIN changes when the original company refused to participate in the E-rate program, had gone out of business or had breached its contract with the applicant. In March, the FCC said it could not anticipate all of the situations under which an applicant might have to change service providers, and relaxed the criteria that applicants had to meet. The SLD, however, held up approving SPIN change requests under the new criteria until the FCC resolved several issues the SLD had raised.

The SLD said it will only process a SPIN change involving a substantive change after it has issued a funding commitment for a project. However, SPIN changes that are required because of data entry errors or acquisitions or mergers will be processed after an applicant has received the pertinent Receipt Acknowledgement Letter.

Under the new policy, applicants will be able to file for SPIN changes involving tariffed or month-to-month services, too.

The SLD said it will consider SPIN change requests for effective dates before March 16, 2000, when the FCC issued its Copan decision. For Year 1, the SLD said it would only consider changes in cases where the installation deadline for the services had been extended by the FCC, usually because of a successful appeal. For Year 2, it said it would consider SPIN change requests, provided they were received by Jan. 31, 2001.

In any case where the applicant qualified for an extension of the installation deadline, the SLD said it would consider a SPIN change request up to 90 days before the extended deadline. After that, it said, there would not be enough time left for it to consider the request and allow the provider to complete the work.

An applicant can sign a new multi-year contract with a new provider without posting a new Form 470, as long as the new contract does not go beyond the original expiration date, or is not longer than the time period specified in the Form 470 or original RFP.

The SLD expressed concern that it would inadvertently pay the wrong service provider and said applicants should notify the SLD of their intent to change providers as soon as the decision is made.

Procedures for making a service provider change are detailed on the SLD Web site.

To review comments that Funds For Learning filed in response to the FCC's requests for comments on its Copan decision, click here.