Correction to the correction process

In the December issue of eRate Update, we published a list of procedures for changing or correcting the information contained on your Form 471. The only changes that the SLD will allow are: (1) correcting your applicant name, address, or contact information; (2) correcting an incorrect service provider name or identification number (SPIN); (3) changing a service provider; (4) changing services within an approved funding request, using the same service provider; (5) reducing the amount of approved discount for a funding request; or (6) cancelling an approved funding request.

Though the terms and conditions under which you can make these corrections still apply, the procedure for making them has changed, at least for the time being. The correction forms that we reported you need to use have been taken down off the SLD’s web site because they must first be approved by the federal government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

While the SLD is waiting for approval of the forms, it will continue to take your Form 471 correction requests via letter. According to the SLD, the agency will post procedures for making those requests by letter on its web site shortly.

Appeals procedure released

On Jan. 12, the SLD released instructions for appealing a funding decision or contacting the agency with your questions about a funding decision. The instructions are located at:

http://www.slcfund.org/Reference/471correct.asp

A few key points in the appeals procedure are:

(1) You must appeal to either the SLD or the FCC in writing. You can choose to appeal to either, but the SLD recommends you start with it and move on to the FCC as your final recourse. SLD responses to appeals are likely to be handled more expeditiously and do not, in any event, preclude subsequent appeals to the FCC.

(2) In your letter of appeal, make sure you clearly identify the funding commitment letter and particular Funding Request Number (FRN) in question. Also, make sure you give your proper contact information.

(3) You must file your appeal within 30 days of receiving your funding commitment letter.

Tips for completing Form 486 and BEAR Form

On Dec. 23, the SLD released guidance documents for completing your Form 486 and Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Form. Those documents can be found at:

http://www.slcfund.org/Reference/486ag/486tips.asp

<http://www.slcfund.org/Reference/472

One note about the BEAR Form: You must get your service provider to sign off on the form. If you’re not sure who should sign it, you can find the correct service provider contact information on the SLD’s web site. Make sure you get Block 4, the Service Provider Acknowledgement, back from your service provider and attach it to the rest of the form before you send it, though. If the two sections are submitted separately, “I can guarantee they’ll never meet,” said Mickey Revenaugh, SLD’s vice president of outreach.

Partial denial of funding requests

If less than 50 percent of the amount requested in any given funding request number (FRN) is for ineligible services, the SLD has decided to deduct the ineligible portion while funding the remainder. Your funding commitment letter will note “adjusted by SLD” if this is the case. This policy is in effect for the first year only, because the program is new.

“We’ve asked you to be patient with us this past year, so we’re being patient with you,” Revenaugh said.

If 50 percent or more of the amount requested in an FRN is for ineligible services, though, the SLD will deny the FRN. Beginning with the 1999-2000 program year, if ANY portion of an FRN is for an ineligible service, the entire FRN will be denied.

Discounts below 50 percent

Though 1998 applicants who qualify for discounts below 50 percent won’t get funding for their internal connections, schools and libraries below the 50 percent level shouldn’t be discouraged from applying for internal connections for the 1999-2000 program year—provided they can afford to foot the cost of wiring themselves.

“Even if you weren’t funded for internal connections this year, you may get funding next year—there’s really no way of knowing right now,” Revenaugh said.

While the same rules of priority will apply, the FCC won’t decide how much to fund the program until after the window has closed and it has an estimate of the demand. Depending on how high the demand is and how much the FCC thinks it can risk collecting from telecommunications carriers to pay for the program, there may be enough money to fund all applicants’ requests.

So if you’re planning a wiring project during the 1999-2000 program year, there’s no harm in applying for discounts. Just make sure you’re prepared to pay the entire cost in case your request for internal connections is denied.

Problem resolution by phone

For the 1999-2000 program year, the SLD has promised to conduct its problem resolution completely by phone. The SLD’s goal is to resolve all problems on the spot instead of through a series of back-and-forth communications via eMail or fax, Revenaugh said.

Drop-dead date established

The SLD has set April 1, 1999 as the “drop-dead” date for service providers to incorporate eRate discounts into first-year applicants’ bills. If you haven’t seen discounts reflected in your bills by then, you should contact the SLD.