Schools and Libraries Division officials July 19 reported to their governing board on their progress toward implementing a pilot online data base for eligible internal connections, and board members expressed concern over how the list would work in practice.
George McDonald, vice president of the Universal Service Administrative Company for the schools and libraries program, said that IBM, Avaya, Cisco and HP were among the companies that were already participating in the project. "It's fewer than we expected, but enough for us to do," McDonald said.
He added that the SLD "did not have the resources to research every piece of equipment" that the manufacturers might submit for listing in the online data base. He added, "It's their responsibility to do the work." But, he said, "if the description turns out to be incomplete or wrong, it is not a safe harbor" for applicants.
Schools and Libraries Committee members expressed concern that applicants would assume that the list was correct and would not understand if their applications were subsequently rejected or challenged in an audit. "Wouldn't it be better to take the time to do it right?" asked Board member Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association.
"Why would you go to it if you're not sure?" asked Board Chair Brian Talbott, executive director of the Association of Educational Service Agencies. Added Bryant, "I thought that that was the purpose."
USAC General Counsel Scott Barash replied, "This is a pilot we were directed [by the Federal Communications Commission] to do. We may have to say it's problematic."
McDonald replied, "It's better than where we are today."
Responded Talbott: "If it's on the list and I get rejected, I'll be the first to come after you."