Recently, Thrun Law Firm alerted our clients to proposed rule changes by the Federal Communication Commission (“FCC”) to the Universal Services Fund program ( “E-Rate”). Among other recommended changes, the proposed rules include: (1) expanding high speed fiber-based broadband internet access; (2) encouraging the use of consortiums and bulk purchasing; and (3) simplifying the E-Rate program’s operational rules to allow greater program access. See, FCC 13-100.
The FCC’s proposed rules will have a broad impact on school districts. For example, FCC 13-100 and companion regulatory documents seek comment on proposed changes to the applicability of the Child Internet Protection Act (“CIPA”) to non-school owned devices brought into schools and to devices provided by schools for student or teacher home use. Such changes could potentially result in considerable additional costs to school districts and potential liability for a student or teacher’s inappropriate use of technology. A link to FCC 13-100 is below:
FCC 13-100 also proposes changes to the method of calculating eligibility, including changes to the use of the National Lunch Program, and seeks to provide enhanced protection from program fraud, waste, and abuse, thus increasing the possibility of penalties, fines, and criminal prosecutions.
When navigating the already complicated and sometimes dangerous labyrinth of the E-Rate program, schools often turn to “E-Rate Coordinators” to assist them in complying with program rules; however, not all “E-Rate Coordinators” are equally qualified. Thrun Law Firm has found that while some E-Rate Coordinators provide excellent assistance within the confines of E-Rate rules, others do not perform as well. Thrun Law Firm frequently has been asked to deal with the aftermath of E-Rate Coordinators who either unintentionally fail to comply with the E-Rate rules or who have purposely stretched those rules in an attempt to provide greater discounts than allowed by the FCC and the Universal Service Fund.
With changing E-Rate rules on the horizon, please note that Thrun Law Firm has attorneys with a wide variety of E-Rate experience, including E-Rate compliance, refund recovery, and fraud protection. We look forward to assisting you in taking full advantage of the program’s benefits while avoiding its pitfalls.