Recently, the FCC has been willing to be flexible with their regulations and grant waiver requests. The latest example is the waiver of the Commission rule that schools and libraries must have a legally binding agreement in place when they submit their FCC Form 471.
The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired followed its state procurement regulations and waited until it received official notification from USAC that its application was fully funded before entering into an agreement with its service provider. During the 2004 Funding Year they did not receive their FCDL until January 11, 2005. On April 14, 2005 the Illinois School requested a delivery deadline extension and acknowledged that they did not sign a contract with the service provider until April 1, 2005. USAC then rescinded the funding commitment because the school did not have a signed contract before the Form 471 was filed.
In granting the Illinois School's waiver request, the FCC stated: "while it missed the deadline, the Illinois School had a legally binding contract in place during the funding year and before the vendor began providing services. We find, therefore, that in these cases the policy behind the rule was satisfied even if the Illinois School did not technically meet the requirements of the rule." The FCC further declared that "it is committed to guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse, and to ensuring that funds disbursed through the E-rate universal service mechanism are used for appropriate purposes. We emphasize that we retain the discretion to evaluate the uses of monies disbursed through the E-rate mechanism and to determine on a case-by-case basis whether waste, fraud, or abuse of program funds occurred and whether recovery is warranted. If we find that funds were not used properly, we will require USAC to recover such funds through its normal processes. Although we grant the appeal addressed here, we reserve the right to conduct audits and investigations to determine compliance with the program rules and requirements.
The FCC appeal decision can be viewed at Illinois School for the Visually Impaired FCC Appeal Decision.doc (62KB)