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FCC Rules in Favor of Applicants

On November 23, the FCC released three appeal decisions in which they showed flexibility in waiving their own rules.  Below is a summary of the appeals.

The FCC found in the Argos Public Library appeal decision that 20 applicants have demonstrated special circumstances to justify a waiver of the Form 471 deadline.  The FCC’s decision was consistent with the Academy of Math and Science appeal in which similar waivers were granted.

The FCC granted 26 applicants service delivery implementation extensions.  They estimate that the appeals granted in the Associated Marine Institute decision involves approximately $12,508,870 in funding and date back to appeals submitted for funding years 2001 through 2007.

The FCC also granted relief to the California State Department of Technology Services.   In January 2007 the state entered into a five year state master contract agreement with two voluntary extensions, however, mistakenly on the corresponding Form 470 did not check the box that they were seeking voluntary extensions.  The RFP that was released in conjunction with the Form 470 made clear the state was also looking for voluntary extensions.  The FCC found that no competitive bidding violations occurred and that hundreds of school districts in California would have to each post Form 470’s for FY 2011 and 2012 if they did not grant the relief.  The FCC also noted that the new Form 470 that was just released does not even have that particular box anymore.

While these decisions continue to be positive signs that the FCC recognizes that the program is complex and that school administrators wear many hats, it is important to note that the FCC states that these appeals are based on the limited scope of each individual appeal and that these decisions “do not alter the obligation of participants in the E-rate program to comply with the Commission’s rules. …”

On September 23 the FCC released new E-rate rules and we expect that the FCC will release additional guidance and clarification in the near future. FFL has set up a special FCC Broadband Order news page on our website in an effort to keep stakeholders abreast of the latest changes and developments tied to the National Broadband Plan.

Any aggrieved party, whether an applicant or service provider, can file an appeal with either the SLD or the FCC.  FFL has created a searchable database of FCC appeal decisions for our E-rate Manager subscribers to make it easier for stakeholders to cite past precedents when appealing to the regulators.

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