May 1, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Janet Wilson, Public Information Coordinator,
Arkansas Department of Information Systems
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Millions of dollars in federal E-rate funding could be received by the state after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a waiver request by the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS) to a contract rule that prompted the FCC to withhold three years of funding requests.
The FCC suspended E-rate funding requests by DIS for program years 2012, 2013 and 2014 due to a rule requiring E-rate applicants to have a signed contract in place before filing an application. E-rate program rules require DIS to file applications for technology services on behalf of public schools and libraries connected to the Arkansas state network. DIS also negotiates E-rate-related contracts and pays provider invoices for the services.
“The governor’s direct involvement in the discussions with the FCC was invaluable and I am pleased that our dialogue with them paid off,” said DIS Director Mark Myers. “The governor is acutely aware that without the benefit of funding from the E-rate program, it would be difficult for many of our schools and community libraries to provide basic Internet and telecommunications technologies.”
In its March 11, 2015, waiver request to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, DIS maintained that the services at issue were competitively bid and contracts were awarded in prior funding years for an initial term with optional one-year extensions. For the funding years in question, the initial term of some contracts expired and a one-year extension was needed. DIS successfully appealed to the FCC that signed contracts were in place for the funding years in question before any services were delivered.
“An important part of our appeal to the FCC was that denial of funding would impair our ability to provide broadband services to schools across Arkansas and would unfairly penalize our schools,” Myers said. “We assured the FCC the state would work to modify the procurement process to align with the E-rate funding cycle so this issue does not happen again.”
Several procedural steps must occur at the federal level before DIS is informed about the amount of E-rate funding for the contested years the state will receive.
E-rate is a federal program that helps public and private K-12 schools, school districts, educational cooperatives and libraries throughout the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access services. E-rate is administered by the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) on behalf of the FCC.