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FCC Appeal Orders Address Several Items

The Federal Communications Commission recently released Appeal Orders stemming from the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries. While the number of Orders issued by the Commission was rather small, the Orders encompass a plethora of issues from discount percentage eligibility to Form 471 modifications.

Illinois State Board of Education Order:

In 2001, the Illinois Board of Education timely filed a Form 471 using a state master contract. The contract was to expire on December 31, 2001 but the contract allowed the state to continue services for up to a year on a tariffed month-to-month basis. The applicant included two FRNs which were for the portion of the year covered by the state master contract and another for the rest of the funding year.

On June 8, 2001, the Illinois BOE filed an FCC Form 470 requesting bids for a replacement master contract. However, the petitioner was unable to renew the state master contract before the end of funding year 2001. Since a replacement state master contract was not renewed before the end of funding year 2001, the Illinois BOE exercised the provision in the existing contract allowing them continue to receive services on a tariffed, month-to-month basis.

Funding of the FRN for service for the remainder of the funding year was denied by USAC stating that the Form 470 intending to cover the remainder of the funding year was filed after the close of the filing window and after the submission of the Form 471. The Commission disagreed with the assessment by USAC, stating that the Illinois BOE exercised the voluntary renewal option of the contract, making the Form 470 that was submitted unnecessary but not a basis for denial.

The Bronx Charter School for Better Learning Order:

Bronx Charter School applied for E-rate discounts in funding year 2006. USAC subsequently reduced funding on the ground that the documentation provided was not sufficient to support the requested discount rate of 90%. Bronx Charter utilized a Report of Meals Form to establish the 90% discount rate. The number of students eligible for NSLP was inadvertently left off the report submitted to USAC.

When the FCDL was issued, USAC had reduced the requested discount level to 80% instead of 90%. Since the NSLP information was left blank, USAC divided the average number of free and reduced price lunches served by the average daily attendance. This effectively denied the applicant’s P2 requests since the discount threshold for FY 2006 was 86%.

The Commission finds that in this instance USAC erred in its calculation when it divided the average number of free and reduced price lunches served by the average daily attendance. Instead, USAC should have utilized the total number of students enrolled rather than meals actually served.

Academy of Math and Science, et al Order:

In this Order, the Commission addresses 257 requests from petitioners seeking waivers of the Form 471 filing window deadline for funding years 2001-2009. Of these 257 requests, the Commission grants 97 requests and finds that the applications were either timely filed or that special circumstances existed to justify a waiver of the filing deadline.

The waivers were granted on various grounds including applications that were received within the deadline were erroneously rejected by USAC, applications that were filed within 14 days of the end of the form filing window and applications which were not filed within the 14 day time period after the form deadline had passed but that had requested a waiver within that time period. Death or illness of a family member of the was also cited as a reason to grant the waiver but only in the instance that the application was filed within 30 days of the end of the form filing deadline.

Beth Rivka School, et al Order:

In this Order the Commission denies five petitioners’ requests to make substantive changes to the Form 471 application months after the filing window closed. The Commission finds that this is not and should not be permitted under the E-rate program rules and that none of the petitioners demonstrated that a waiver would be in the best interest of the E-rate program.

Three petitioners sought to modify the discount level on their Form 471 applications in order to qualify for Priority Two funding. While the reasons given for the modifications varied from each petitioner, the Commission affirms that it declines to waive the E-rate rules to permit such modifications, particularly when it comes to removing certain schools from the application in an effort to qualify for the Priority Two discount threshold.

Two petitioners sought to revise their Forms 471 by adding funding requests. Beth Rivka and Dale both appealed the decision of USAC that barred the petitioners from adding funding requests to the Forms 471. The FCC denied the appeal, further emphasizing that in accordance with the Bishop Perry Order, applicants are allowed to modify applications for ministerial or clerical errors. However, the Commission finds that none of the applicants modified their applications for those reasons.

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