On October 14 the FCC released an Order detailing how schools and libraries affected by Hurricane Katrina can use Universal Discounts to help rebuild and restore their telecommunications networks. Funds For Learning is taking time to further evaluate the impact of this Order.
The Order can be found at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-05-178A1.doc
Here are some highlights:
- Deadlines: The E-rate Funding Year 2005 application window will be reopened for certain schools, libraries, and consortia directly and indirectly affected by the hurricane. The window reopens on the release date of this Order and closes 60 days after. Any application or amended application from an eligible school, library, or consortium, as discussed above, that is postmarked by 60 days after the release date of this Order will be deemed accepted as timely filed within the Funding Year 2005 window
- Discount Rates: the Commission will assign the E-rate program's highest level of priority (i.e., 90 percent) to schools and libraries in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area for Funding Year 2005 and Funding Year 2006 to ensure that these schools are eligible for the steepest discounts available for supported services.
- Internal Connections: FCC will allow affected parties in eligible counties/parishes in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to "restart the clock" for the purposes of calculating compliance with the "two-in-five" rule
- Service/Product Substitutions: FCC will allow program participants in affected areas to substitute services or products in one broad category for another
- Displaced Students: FCC will allow schools and libraries serving displaced students and citizens to amend their Funding Year 2005 applications to account for the unexpected increase in population by filing a special supplementary FCC Form 471 request for additional funding.
- Restoring Networks: FCC intent is not to allow double recovery for damages related to telecommunications and information services equipment funded under the schools and libraries universal service support mechanism. For this reason, schools and libraries affected by Hurricane Katrina requesting funding for the restoration of their telecommunications and information systems pursuant to the direction contained in this Order shall certify that the school or library incurred substantial damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina and that the services and products sought in their applications will be solely used to restore the network to the functional equivalent of the pre-Katrina degree of functionality (i.e., prior to August 29, 2005) and that other resources (e.g., insurance or public assistance monies provided by FEMA) are not available for restoration.
- Outside Resources: Schools and libraries affected by Hurricane Katrina shall certify that any alternative funding (e.g., insurance payments, FEMA support, community resources) in excess of the cost for products or services requested on their applications will be returned to the federal Universal Service Fund.
- Auditing: The FCC is committed to safeguarding the USF from potential waste, fraud, and abuse. To ensure that all monies are used for their intended purpose of assisting in Hurricane Katrina disaster relief and restoration, we adopt certification and documentation requirements for these temporary rules.
- All eligible telecommunications carriers, service providers, or beneficiaries requesting support under these temporary rules shall be subject to audit or investigation by the Commission's Office of Inspector General ("OIG"), or other authorized federal or state governmental agency.
- Any eligible telecommunications carrier, service provider, or beneficiary receiving more than $1 million under this section shall be subject to an automatic audit, investigation, or other review by the Commission's OIG (or the Administrator working under the oversight of the OIG) to ensure the temporary support is used for its intended purposes.