WASHINGTON, D.C.—The FCC has responded to concerns raised by Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Rebecca Jacobs Goldman and Mark Palchick, on behalf of client Ohio Information Technology Centers, and is working to address confusion related to its E-Rate Program application process.

Goldman and Palchick recently met with the FCC to share concerns with changes made by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to the filing guidelines and definitions of permitted eligible services for purposes of the FCC Form 470 during the 2018 E-Rate Funding Year. This form allows schools and libraries to seek bids for affordable internet and telecom services. The confusion centers on changes to the drop-down menu options for online applications. Many industry officials say the confusion caused by these changes could have resulted in hundreds of schools and libraries missing out on E-Rate funding.

In response, the FCC has released a letter instructing the USAC not to deny E-Rate applications due to confusion about the application process. The FCC also is directing the USAC to clarify the application instructions for 2019 fiscal year applications.

FCC Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Kris Anne Monteith expressed understanding with the concerns brought by Goldman, Palchick and the Ohio Information Technology Centers and pledged the Bureau’s support in ensuring a fair and clear application process.

Monteith writes, “we direct USAC, before July 1, 2018, to provide stakeholders with clear guidance on the FY 2019 FCC Form 470 drop-down menu options and to take whatever measures necessary to ensure that applicants fully understand those options. This guidance is essential to assisting applicants in complying with the Commission's competitive bidding rules in FY2019 and beyond.”

Communications Daily covered these new developments in its May 3, 2018 issue. Goldman tells Communications Daily, “We were pleased that the ex parte was able to ameliorate some of the damage which could have been done. Despite this short term success, however, the FCC’s May 1st letter failed to address the fundamental problem that USAC has been acting ultra vires by changing the information requested on the Form 470 without any formal guidance or notice and comment period from the FCC, which was and continues to be a violation of the FCC’s rules and other statutory requirements. The confusion caused by USAC’s guidance is exasperated by the fact that the FCC has specifically held that USAC guidance is non-binding.”

Click here to read “FCC Tells USAC Not to Deny E-rate Fiber Bids Solely Due to “Apparent Confusion” on Form 470” in Communications Daily (subscription required).

Also, click here to read “Womble Bond Dickinson’s Rebecca Jacobs Goldman, Mark Palchick Voice Concerns to the FCC about Changes to the E-rate Program on Behalf of the Ohio Information Technology Centers.”

Rebecca Jacobs Goldman has a diverse communications law practice, guiding clients in media law, Internet, telecom, cable, broadcast and privacy/data protection matters. She counsels communications industry clients in negotiating contracts and complex business transactions, as well as helping them resolve disputes and regulatory challenges. Her clients include cable operators, broadband service providers, video programmers, network operators, spectrum owners, radio broadcasters and telecommunications companies.

Mark Palchick has been an attorney in the communications field since 1975. He is experienced in matters relating to the domestic and international cable industry, international copyright, negotiations of program affiliation agreements, E-rate funding, pole attachment matters, interconnection agreements between private carriers and other FCC regulatory matters. In 2013 he was honored by the Cable Television Industry and inducted into the Cable Pioneers.