The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comments on proposed revisions to three forms used by E-rate stakeholders, the Service Provider Invoice Form, the Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) form and the Service Provider Annual Certification form.
The FCC originally proposed changes in these forms in August 2004, but has made some revisions in response to comments it received then. Many of the changes are designed to address concerns about the potential for waste, fraud and abuse, and to improve the FCC's ability to take action against those that are found to have violated E-rate program rules.
The new forms would all require the applicant or service provider completing the form to provide an FCC registration. All program stakeholders were required to obtain these numbers by last November 1, but these are the first forms in which the number would be incorporated.
On the proposed new BEAR form, through which applicants receive reimbursement for the payments they have already made for E-rate-supported equipment and services, service providers will be required to certify that they "have received funds from my customer greater or equal to the amount requested." Service providers also must certify that they will remit payment to the applicant no later than 20 days after its receipt, and that they will do so "prior to tendering or making use of the payment" issued by the Universal Service Administrative Company.
Many new certification statements will appear on the Service Provider Annual Certification (SPAC) form, through which companies provide an annual statement that they will follow E-rate program rules. Among the proposed certifications that companies would have to make are:
- That the service provider will not knowingly or intentionally submit invoices to USAC that contain requests for support for ineligible services;
- That the "rates charged. . . for goods and services provided pursuant to the program are its lowest and are competitive with the rates generally paid for similar services and equipment in the local community";
- That prior to submitting a Service Provider Invoice form, the company will have billed the applicant for its share of the price and will not provide the applicant's share of the prediscount cost in "cash, credit or in goods and services of any kind." Service providers are also required to certify that they will require payment from their customers "consistent with customary business practices."
- That they did not provide an applicant with any form of kickback or paid commission;
- That prices have been arrived at "independently, without, for the purpose of restricting competition, any consultation, communication, or agreement with any other offer or competitor";
The proposed forms can be reviewed at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-05-513A1.pdf. Comments on the proposed revisions can be filed by March 22, and reply comments by April 5.