The Schools and Libraries Division's governing board January 24 recommended extending the filing window for the 2005 E-rate year by one day, to February 18, 2005.
The recommendation must still be reviewed by the staff of the Federal Communications Commission before it becomes official, but an SLD official said "a senior FCC official" had supported the move.
The vote by the Schools and Libraries Committee of the Universal Service Administrative Company's Board of Directors came after George McDonald, vice president of USAC for schools and libraries, recounted how a recent SLD "letter to the field" had incorrectly advised applicants that January 21 was the last date that applicants could post a Form 470 for the coming funding year. Program stakeholders quickly alerted the SLD to the fact that a Form 470 that was posted on that day would generate an "Allowable Contract Date" of February 18, the day after the application filing window had been scheduled to close.
The incorrect information appeared on the SLD's Web site for a few hours between January 13 and January 14 before it was corrected. McDonald said that the SLD had also distributed a fax to 30,000 applicants or potential applicants that had contained the error. The SLD subsequently re-sent the fax the next day with the correct information. Another 30,000 e-mail messages and 30,000 letters were corrected before they were sent the first time.
Meeting participants expressed concern that, despite the SLD's efforts, the incorrect information had already been re-transmitted to others. Further, some stakeholders believed that applicants who missed the existing filing deadline would have a potentially valid basis for appealing their rejections, tying up the applications, and SLD and FCC resources, until the matter could be resolved.
McDonald told the committee that he had not personally reviewed the text of the letter, but that "a good number of people" had. He said that the SLD had used the correct Form 470 application deadline date in other communications this year.
Data collected by Funds For Learning's E-rate Manager tool indicated that 100 Form 470 applications were filed on January 21. On January 20, 1,193 Form 470 applications were posted. It is presumed that the extension of the filing window, once formally announced, would apply to all applicants, no matter when they posted their Form 470 application.