The full Federal Communications Commission on October 21 rejected an appeal from the state of North Dakota. Its statewide application for Funding Year 2001 was rejected for its failure to submit its Form 471 certification and Description of Services documents by the close of the filing window.
The State Information Technology Department filed an online Form 471 on the night of January 18, 2001, but did not mail in its application certification and Description of Services document until February 9. At that time, the Schools and Libraries Division required that both documents be postmarked by January 18, 2001. (The SLD now permits the Description of Services attachments to be submitted after the filing window deadline.)
The state's application was rejected by the SLD in October, 2001 and the state appealed the decision to the FCC. In April 2002, the Telecommunications Access Policy Division rejected the appeal. The state then appealed to the full commission, making a variety of arguments, including what the Commission described as "the allegedly overwhelming nature of the instructions for filing completed applications for Funding Year 2001."
The Commission again rejected the arguments, noting that it had established a precedent for the documents that were required to be submitted by the close of the filing window and that the state had received adequate notice of the deadline. The Commission noted that in November, 2000, the SLD had sent a letter outlining the application procedures for the next funding year to all of the previously identified "authorized persons" signing Forms 471, including the person who signed the state's application for 2001. It noted that "34,271 applications were successfully filed within the filing deadline." Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, dissented from the decision. In their statement, they said: "We are troubled that the complexity and rigidity of our application process sometimes prevents eligible and deserving children from experiencing the manifold opportunities that this program allows. This is surely the case with this application filed on behalf of the students of North Dakota. . . . "In April of this year, we began taking steps toward improving this already excellent program by initiating a rulemaking that seeks to simplify and streamline the operation of the schools and libraries program. In response to our call for input, many have said that the process is just too complicated and we should work to streamline it and make it more user-friendly. We must balance our need to maintain our keen oversight over this program with efforts to improve access to this program for eligible participants. As members of this Commission, we will work toward that admirable goal." The full decision is available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-03-240A1.doc.