E-Rate: Summary of Recent E-Rate Rulings

by Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP
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Financial Relationship between Consultant and Service Provider Violates Competitive Bidding Rules

In three separate appeals the Commission found that the financial relationship between an applicant’s E-rate consultant and the service provider constituted a conflict of interest in violation of the Commission’s competitive bidding rules.  In one case, the same person owned both the consulting company used by the district to prepare its Form 470 and the company that they chose as their service provider.  In the other cases, the service provider paid the sales commission of a consultant that was used by various schools to assist them with the E-rate process.  The Commission found that both instances constituted violations of the Commission’s competitive bidding rules.

Using a Service Provider’s Email Address as Contact on Form 470 Violated Competitive Bidding Rules

In a similar ruling, the Commission denied appeals filed by ten applicants that had listed their service provider’s email address as the point of contact on their Form 470s.  The Commission has consistently found that a service provider’s involvement in the Form 470 process violates the competitive bidding rules.

Appeal Granted where School Mistakenly Cancelled Its Entire E-rate Application Rather than One of the FRNs

Consistent with precedent, the Commission granted the appeal of a school district that had mistakenly cancelled its entire application rather than just one of its funding requests.  Notably, the Commission also waived its rule requiring applicants to seek review of a USAC decision within 60 days, where the funding commitment decision letter (“FCDL”) had been sent to the school during summer vacation and the school responded as soon as the session began in the fall.

Commission Rules on Requirement that a Contract be in Place at the Time a Form 471 Application is Submitted

The Commission waived its rules requiring that a signed contract be in place prior to an applicant filing its Form 471.  In the case of thirteen petitioners, the Commission found that although the petitioners’ contracts contained minor errors or were not signed and dated by the applicants prior to the time that they submitted their Form 471, in all cases some form of an agreement was in place prior to the filing of the Form 471.  Accordingly, the Commission granted the appeals.

If you have any questions, please contact Mark Palchick, Rebecca Jacobs or any member of the firm’s Communications Law Group.

 

 

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