California Educational Data Processing Association
DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 3
April-May, 1998
E-rate Update

Initiative: Politics, lawsuits, "stacking" issue delay program's implementation.

Greg Lindner, Yolo County Superintendent of Schools

The E-rate program is moving fast and furiously. No doubt you have read about it in the newspapers and/or television. Unfortunately a lot of politics have surfaced around this program. It's more important now than ever before that we in K12 communicate with our legislators in support of the program.

Recent events that have occurred have centered around a lawsuit by some of the telecommunications carriers, the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF), and the timelines for getting your applications into the Schools and Libraries Corporation (SLC). Information contained below was excerpted from our E-rate Central Web page at http://www.yolo.k12.ca.us/erate.html

3/6/98 On February 24, 1998, SBC Subsidiary Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., BellSouth Corp. and GTE filed a Joint Brief In Appeal Of FCC May 1997 Universal Service Order. This Brief basically is stating that the FCC errored on a number of items. The full text of the brief can be found in this MS Word document at this location http://www.sbc.com/Articles/19980224-01-fccbrief95.doc

3/6/98 Update of CPUC Workshop held on March 4, 1998. Representing CEDPA, I attended the recent California Public Utilities Commision (CPUC) Workshop on Implementation.

Jackie Lamb from CDE, myself (Greg Lindner), and Skip Sharp from San Diego COE, attended the workshop on Wednesday to represent K12 schools in California. Jeff Bowser of BaeNet and Gene Endicott of Oakland USD, and a representative for San Juan USD were also in attendance.

I attended representing CEDPA, CCSESA, and Yolo COE while Jackie represented K12 Education and Skip represented San Diego as well as CCSESA. It was quite an interesting meeting. The meeting appeared to drag at times over insignificant issues. While it appeared that the issues were raised for a particular purpose, the result was the loss of valuable time that could have been used more productively. It appeared quite evident that our educational contingent was much more informed about the E-rate program and CTF than many of those in attendance.

One good thing that came out of the meeting was a commitment and recommendation from those in attendance that schools would not have to fill out a new CTF application if they already had a CTF application on file for anything else. That will save schools a tremendous amount of time and effort. The other thing that was agreed to in principal was that the bills would show the E-rate discounts in summary form but that upon request the carriers would provide the detail in electronic form or in written form. I suggested that most K12 folks would request the detail whenever they added or changed services so that they could audit their bills.

Other issues that were left undecided were the issue of retro-activity and implementation of "stacking". Stacking is the term being used to describe a school taking advantage of both the E-rate program and the CTF program. Some of the Telecommunication Carriers in attendance were not aware of the fact that E-rate provides retroactive discounts for telecommunication services to January 1, 1998 or to when the service began if it began after January 1, 1998. They have stated that their billing systems will not be able to handle this. Further, they argue that the CPUC Resolution allowing stacking does not go into effect until the "implementation" issues are resolved. The position we represented for K12 was that the CPUC decision became active on February 4, 1998 when it was passed - not when the implementation issues are cleared up. The CPUC Staff are to get a ruling on this.

The bottom line issue that is being discussed is how long will it take for the telecommunications carriers to modify their systems to handle the two programs. All are saying a long time, however, some are saying longer than others. Pacific Bell mentioned February 1999 as possibly the earliest date they could be ready.

Realizing that there are significant changes that need to be made to their systems I offered a proposal that I thought schools would accept. I offered that we would be willing to live with waiting 3, 6, or 8 months for the systems to get modified as long as the discounts were retro-active back to February 4, 1998 for CTF and E-rate and to January 1, 1998 for E-rate. The other K12 representatives agreed that this would be workable. None of the Telecommunications Carriers in attendance would agree to that proposal. Even after being asked twice they would not agree. We (K12) felt the proposal was very reasonable. Perhaps the carriers in attendance feel that if they wait long enough they will not have to do anything (see link above re lawsuit filed).

The next step is for another meeting to be called to discuss the issue of retro-activity. The CPUC will wait until the SLC releases their rules on how they will handle payments on this. Once done, the CPUC will set up the next meeting.

I would encourage all K12 to call their telecommunications provider and ask them to explain their position on CTF and E-rate and if they are involved in the lawsuit - to explain their position and how it helps or hinders schools.

3/6/98 From the SLC Web Page: http://www.slcfund.org

"Important New Notice (3/6/98): The SLC letters to our clients acknowledging the posting and/or receipt of Forms 470 reflect a closing date for the 75-day window of April 15, 1998, contrary to the Web Site notice of March 5, 1998. Indeed, the window officially closes on April 15. Therefore, the materials provided on this Web Site have been revised to reflect the April 15 closing of the window. Accordingly, March 18 will be the last day SLC will be able to receive Forms 470 for applicants who want to complete the 470/471 application process within the 75-day window.

We regret any confusion that the 3/5/98 notice on this Web Site may have generated."

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