The Congressional session has ended and there are two important Universal Service and E-rate related issues that were included in the final appropriations bill that was sent to the President this week. Congress extended the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA) exemption for the E-rate program for another year until December 31, 2008. The ADA would require USAC to start treating approved commitments as obligations, rather than when an invoice was presented for payment. Under the accounting rules, USAC must actually have the money in hand before it can issue a commitment. In October 2004, when the FCC initially decided that USAC should adopt the ADA the funding commitments came to a halt for several months. Congress has extended the ADA exemption each year since 2004 and Funds for Learning, along with other education and industry stakeholders are working to get a permanent exemption to the ADA.
The other provision included in the final appropriations bill will give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) the authority to use $21,480,000 from the Universal Service Fund to conduct more rigorous oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse within the four Universal Service programs. This will clear the path for additional audits and investigations and the FCC OIG has already indicated they will hire more auditors, attorney’s and information technology specialists to assist with their oversight responsibilities.
Funds For Learning created E-rate University to provide E-rate stakeholders with online training tools as well as an assessment test. E-rate University provides administrators and executives confidence that whomever is handling E-rate related activity will have success and understands the ever-changing compliance rules and regulations.