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Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Two-signature/two-date" won't die

I guess I jumped to conclusions in my June 14th post, saying that with the Richmond County decision, the FCC had killed the SLD rule that all contracts must be signed by both parties and dated by both parties. The SLD is apparently still operating under the belief that the FCC requires two dates.

Why did I think the rule was dead? Because the FCC said: "Based on the evidencesubmitted upon appeal, we find that Richmond County had legally binding contracts with Time Warner Cable and eChalk, LLC in place when submitting its FCC Form 471s. In both cases, Richmond County produced contracts that were signed and dated before the certification date of its FCC Form 471s." (paragraph 6)

The eChalk contract had two signatures, but only one date (as is frequently the case, and as is allowed under contract law). In its decision, the FCC did not say that the eChalk contract was defective, but that it was waiving its requirement for two dates. The FCC said the contract was legally binding. Nowhere in the decision does the FCC say, "All contracts with one signature are valid," but it does say this contract with one date is valid. And since the FCC has never said that a contract with only one date is invalid, I inferred that the FCC does not require two dates.

It seems to me that my reason for inferring that the FCC does not require two dates is much better than the SLD reason for inferring that the FCC does require two dates (based on a mention of "signed and dated by both parties" in a list of documentation required for audits).

I also have the impression that the SLD is viewing the Richmond County order as strictly a waiver, but it looks to me like the FCC granted the appeal for the Time Warner and eChalk contracts, and only waived its rules for the Novell contract.

I'm not dissing the SLD, though: I'd rather see applicants get denied and appeal to the FCC and get funded then have them get funded, then later COMADed.

There is hope: apparently there is a pile of "two-signature/two-date" appeals that the FCC is looking at en masse. Perhaps when that decision comes out, it will explicitly state that the validity of a contract is determined by state law, not FCC order.

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