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A Story About A Lost BEAR

Recently you may have followed the submission by the State Erate Coordinator’s Association to the FCC about the “black hole” phenomenon. This lack of due process is easy to spot at the application level as these applications are not funded and are displayed as pending. It is less apparent at the form level, but experienced by many an applicant.

The following is a story about a little BEAR who apparently got lost in the Schools and Libraries forest. This BEAR, we will call him Fozzy, went to the forest in summer of 2010. With a forest bragging status of 30 days to process an invoice, the applicant family became concerned when Fozzy wasn’t processed for payment or denied. Fozzy did receive a series of questions from the park ranger (invoice department) of which the applicant family responded with all requested information. Fozzy’s status remained “pending approval” with no further requests for information or communication from the park ranger.

After 5 long months in the forest the little BEAR, Fozzy, still had not returned as processed or denied. Calls to the park bureau (CSB) were made monthly by the applicant family. With each call the family was informed the little BEAR was “still in process.” With five months passed and receiving no additional information about the lost BEAR or requests for additional documentation, the family escalated the search for their little lost BEAR to the forest advocate (Ombudsman).

The forest advocate informed the family that the little BEAR was held up in a special compliance review in a separate department of the forest which was conducted months earlier and that a response regarding his status could not be expected until the end of the month. He recommended that the family reach back out to him again in a month.

Well as you might imagine, each month the applicant family reached out the forest advocate requesting any information available. Each month they were told “check back next month” and that no additional details were available. At almost 13 months to the day, the applicant family sent another desperate plea to the advocate to request a status update. The advocate replied that the review was still ongoing and resolution could be expected “next month.” You can imagine the family’s concern and frustration with the lack of information and inability to file a complaint or seek assistance within the deep forest.

Just as the family was meeting to discuss what, if any, options they had, they received notification that Fozzy was processed for payment and would soon be released. “Hurray” the family shouted,” after almost 14 months our little BEAR has been processed and released from the dark forest!”

The story about Fozzy the BEAR has a happy ending but you can imagine the frustration the family had regarding the lack of information available. The lack of due process or inability of an applicant to get information about an application, BEAR, Form 486 or other required submission is simply inexcusable. Let’s hope that the SLD can improve the transparency of the process for all submissions and help build a communication channel for stakeholders to receive a status update.

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