It is very important that you follow E-rate rules! This may seem an obvious statement and you may say that you do follow E-rate rules. I write this post after seeing a notice from the FCC. You can read the full notice at this link: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db1104/DOC-342036A1.pdf
The title of the notice is “FCC Plans $21M Fine for Wire Fraud and Overbilling The Rural Health Care Program”. The Rural Health Care program is similar to the E-rate program in some of its rules. For example, the 28 day bidding rule. The 28 day bidding rule states that when a school issues an RFP and E-rate Form 470, the school must wait 28 days before selecting the service provider. And the service provider must have been selected via a bid evaluation process. What is not allowed is for a school, either verbally or written, to inform a service provider that they will be selected prior to the 28 day period. Looking at the above link and the “Notice of Apparent Liability” that gives all the detail, it looks like the service provider was selected prior to the 28 day period.
If you receive a Funding Commitment Letter (FCL) this doesn’t mean the FCC cannot come back to you later and reclaim money and fine you. This is what happened in the above scenario. The FCC went back several years. When the FCC issues a FCL they are accepting your certifications on faith that you have followed the rules. If later they have reason to believe your certifications were not true, then they can investigate and do things like issue subpoena’s for emails etc..
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