The Federal Communications Commission has rejected the appeals of two private schools whose E-rate applications were denied for failure to demonstrate that they had "the necessary resources to make effective use of the services" they had
The Federal Communications Commission has rejected the appeals of two private schools whose E-rate applications were denied for failure to demonstrate that they had "the necessary resources to make effective use of the services" they had requested in the second E-rate funding year.
Both schools, Laurel Hall School in Hagerstown, MD, and Bethlehem Christian School in Duquesne, PA, had filed for support for $205,000 and $268,000, respectively, worth of networking equipment from the same vendor, Total Communications USA. Both schools were subject to a so-called Item 22 review, in which they had to produce evidence that they had secured access to all of the resources they would need to use the proposed network, including computers, training, software, maintenance and electrical connections. In both cases, the vendor had developed the school's tech plan and provided the documentation in response to the review. In both cases, the Schools and Libraries Division rejected the applications because of a failure to have the necessary resources in place.
The SLD subsequently advised the FCC staff that it had rejected the Laurel Hall application because the school had requested support for three servers and 48 "network workstation lines" when it only had six computers in place, and plans for another 14 by the end of the fiscal year. In the case of the Bethlehem school, the SLD said it requested support for 96 ports when it had only 17 computers.
The FCC said Laurel Hall "clearly sought funding for a much larger network configuration than it could support with the hardware it proposed to obtain during the funding year." That alone, it said, amounted to a violation of the commission's rules. But it added that the school's technology plan provided no basis to argue that it had budgeted for the funds it would need to operate and maintain a network of that size. It dismissed the school's arguments that SLD procedures provide inadequate guidelines to applicants on the "necessary resources" rule. It said those determinations are made on a "case-by-case" basis, because each applicant is permitted to design a network that best meets its unique needs.
The FCC went farther in the Bethlehem case, making note of correspondence in which the Total Communications USA said it realized the school could not afford the non-discounted portion of the services requested and assuring the school that it would secure grants to cover the school's share of the costs. However, the FCC said the school never submitted evidence that such grants had been obtained. The SLD recently posted a warning to E-rate applicants about making this kind of arrangement with their vendors.
The FCC added that the application "raises serious concerns that [the school] inappropriately abdicated control over the application process to Total Communications USA." The application and its circumstances, it said, "also raise serious concerns that [the school] or Total Communications USA may have attempted to defraud the universal service fund or misrepresented facts to the commission." The FCC said it intended to investigate the matter further, and take additional action if necessary.