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Friday, December 14, 2007

I've got your LOA right here

So the FCC has remanded another batch of appeals. The subject this time: LOAs. I only found three sentences that applied to all applicants. From paragraph 11: "we direct USAC to reach out to consortia when there are ministerial errors on their LOAs." And from the footnote to that sentence: "For example, Minnesota OET submitted an LOA initially that did not provide enough detail regarding the services for which the consortium leader was authorized to apply.... USAC could have allowed the applicant to remedy that ministerial error, rather than denying the application."

My reading of those sentences is that if an applicant has an LOA that does not include one of the five required elements, that can be corrected after the submission of the 471. Good news for the program, and consistent with Bishop Perry and his issue.

Of course, I'm not going to miss out on my opportunity for a rant. What is the purpose of the LOA? In a consortium, who is the billed entity? The consortium. The consortium is the only entity that can apply for E-Rate funding. To me, if you agree to purchase services through a consortium, it is clear that you want the consortium to seek E-Rate funding, with or without an LOA. (Aside: in this decision, the FCC said that a consortium agreement that included the five elements required for an LOA could be counted as an LOA. And the FCC said that an LOA which lacks any of the five elements can be corrected after the fact. So doesn't that mean that USAC should accept any consortium agreement as an LOA and allow the applicant to "correct" it after the fact by adding the five elements that were missing?)

The only time that I can see that an LOA serves any purpose is when a consortium is purchasing Priority Two equipment for consortium members' locations. That burns one of the members' years for the "2-in-5 rule." But since LOAs do not have to make clear that consequence, it is a poor vehicle for that purpose. And as I've said in the past, the 2-in-5 rule should be rescinded.

So consortium LOAs are yet another example of unnecessary complexity.

I'm all for LOAs for consultants (unless the written agreement between the consultant and the applicant includes the five elements). But consortium LOAs should go.

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