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E-Rate update

Two weeks ago we wrote to John Larson (our U.S. Congressman) asking his office to contact the SLD* and ask, pretty please, when will Hartford get its funding? Larson's special funds coordinator called one of the senior SLD administrators, MB. MB indicated that our funding was on hold pending a policy ruling by the FCC. He expected the ruling to be handed down in three weeks, give or take. At that point we could ask for more information. What the ruling was he did not say, but he did mention the ongoing audit of our '00-'01 funds and the fact that we have received a letter notifying us that SLD will be seeking recovery of funds.

I did some calling and emailing, and while I'm no closer to a definitive answer, there's a consensus as to what the policy ruling must be about. The FCC has what they call their Red Light Rule — the FCC will not make any payments or grants of funds to any organization that owes it money. I can only assume that because we have been notified the SLD that they will be coming after us for ~$54,000 from '00-'01 that they are asking the FCC to rule as to whether the Red Light Rule applies to us. So, it is likely that we are not only at the mercy of SLD getting around to funding us, but that funding is dependent on another branch of SLD getting around to actually sending us a bill that we can pay. Then there's the larger question of "is this the last finding from the audit that they're going to come after us over?"

E-Rate is like a drug. Because we're so poor, we're utterly dependant on it paying 89% of things like the phone bill. And like a drug, this dependency is putting us through all sorts of painful contortions. I told the boss today that I thought that all of the (E-Rate funded) projects that I have planned for the summer will probably slip into the winter, or maybe even the summer of '06 because we may not see the money for months. We haven't even contemplated what it would mean to be denied for a second year in a row.

I curse you BR. I curse you for thinking that you could play fast and loose with the rules, that you could bury things and that auditors would never come looking. Well, they've come looking and they found where you bent the rules. They don't care that you thought you were trying to do a good thing in the face of stupid rules. The rules are the rules, and now they want their money back. You've been gone for a year and a half and we're still paying for your foolishness.

* SLD is the Schools and Libraries Division of USAC, the Universal Service Administrative Corporation. USAC is a Federally chartered corporation that manages the Universal Service Fund on behalf of the FCC. The SLD administers the E-Rate portion of USF; another division (whose name I do not know) administers the part of USF the provides funding to rural medical providers.

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