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A consortium (plural consortia or consortiums) is a group of entities that come together to undertake a project or achieve a goal that is beyond the resources of the entities acting as individuals. For example, schools and/or libraries can form consortia for the purposes of the Schools and Libraries Program to aggregate demand in order to lower prices and promote more efficient use of shared facilities.
Some consortia, e.g., library consortia, may have been formed originally for reasons unrelated to E-rate and in fact may pre-date the E-rate program.
One entity should be designated as the lead member of the consortium. The consortium leader may or may not be eligible for discounts.
The consortium leader is responsible for ensuring that necessary certifications are made and for responding to USAC inquiries on behalf of the consortium members during both pre- and post-commitment processes. (USAC’s issuance of a Funding Commitment Decision Letter is the event that separates pre-commitment from post-commitment.)
The consortium leader also has certain record-keeping responsibilities and, unless membership in the consortium is specifically required by state statute, must retain a Letter of Agency (LOA) or other documentation from each consortium member to demonstrate that that member was aware of, and had expressly authorized, the action that would be taken on its behalf by the consortium leader.
If services are shared by both eligible and ineligible entities, the consortium lead member should perform a cost allocation to ensure that only the eligible entities receive the benefit of discounted services.
When the consortium leader makes the FCC Form 471 certifications, the leader is certifying that:
The leader may be asked during a Program Integrity Assurance review to provide documentation that supports these certifications.
The consortium leader is also responsible for ensuring that the services for which the consortium requests discounts are the services that the members have authorized in their LOAs. Failure to do so may result in the denial or modification of funding requests for consortium members.
The consortium leader must collect from each consortium member a signed FCC Form 479, Certification by Administrative Authority to Billed Entity of Compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, to establish that member’s status under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). After all FCC Forms 479 have been collected, the consortium leader can complete the FCC Form 486, Receipt of Service Confirmation Form.
Note that the FCC Form 479 is not required if the consortium requested funding only for telecommunications services. The consortium leader should not submit FCC Forms 479 to USAC but should retain them for its records.
Records must be retained for a period of five years after the last day of service delivered for a particular funding year and may be requested during an audit or other review process.