On Feb. 22, the American Library Association (ALA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) filed an ex parte motion with the FCC asking the agency to reconsider some of its positions on the eRate that interfere with state and local procurement practices.

In the document, the ALA and CCSSO pointed to a series of discrepancies between the program’s rules and the way many state and local governments do business. The motion’s aim is to acknowledge and honor the laws that already exist at the state and local level to insure the integrity of the bidding and procurement process.

The suggestions made in the document included:

(1) Allow applicants to file a Form 470 anytime before a funding year begins. This request would accommodate applicants whose state or local procurement laws require a longer or more complex bidding process than the current process allows.

(2) Allow applicants to file a Form 471 before a contract is signed but also before the SLD’s Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review begins. This would let applicants file a Form 471 once an agreement is made with a vendor to sign a contract, but also give both parties time to work out the fine points of a contract without rushing to sign it before the window closes.

(3) Allow voluntary extensions of existing contracts, as long as the extension is within the terms of the RFP or the resulting contract.

(4) Allow a change of vendor when state or local rules permit it after a funding commitment is made.

In addition, the ALA and CCSSO asked the FCC to allow changes of service within a Funding Request Number (FRN), as long as the changes are within the scope of the original bidding process or come as a result of a master contract change.

Finally, the filing asked the FCC to reconsider its current policy to deny any FRN for which more than 50 percent of the services were ineligible. The ALA and CCSSO argued that because applicants were not advised they needed to split services among the three categories, the appeals process should be used to appropriately classify services and approve those services that meet the rules of eligibility.

The FCC is expected to consider these suggestions as part of their current review of two additional items:

(1) Extending the grace period for using eRate funds for one-time expenditures to either Sept. 1, 1999 for use or Dec. 31, 1999 for payment; and

(2) Allowing contracts that expired before Dec. 31, 1998 to be eligible for the remainder of first-year funding. If accepted, the FCC would allow contract extensions to fully utilize first-year eRate funding.

A decision on these points was expected by March 18. Check the SLD’s web site for the latest information on these requests.