Schools and Libraries (E-Rate)

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Appeals & Audits

Appeals Guidelines

During the appeal review process, USAC will verify that the original Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) review was performed in compliance with program requirements and that the correct decision was achieved. If USAC made an error during the original PIA review of the application, USAC will correct the error.

For example, during PIA review, USAC lowered the discount rate requested by the applicant. During the appeal review process, USAC will determine if the proper procedures were followed and whether the applicant was given the opportunity to provide supporting documentation to justify the higher discount rate. If the appeal review process determines that procedures were not followed and the applicant was not given an opportunity to provide that documentation, the applicant will be able to do so before the appeal review process has concluded. USAC will grant the appeal and approve the discount rate based on the supporting documentation available.

New Documentation Provided

In general, a PIA reviewer will contact the applicant and ask for all information necessary to make decisions about an application. If that contact does not occur or the applicant is unable to respond to the request, and funding is denied, USAC may grant an appeal when the appellant provides such original documentation.

For example, during PIA review, the applicant indicated that it did not have a signed contract and USAC denied funding because there was no signed contract. On appeal, the applicant claims that the requested services are services provided under tariff and not covered by a contract. USAC will generally accept this new information on appeal.

However, USAC will not grant this appeal if the documentation provided on appeal contradicts information contained in the original file and the applicant is unable to resolve the discrepancy.

For example, if the applicant had provided an unsigned copy of a contract during the review of its application, USAC will generally not accept the applicant's claim on appeal that it is a non-contractual tariffed service since it contradicts the documentation previously provided.

Policy Changes or Clarification

If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues a policy clarification or adopts a new policy that would affect USAC's original decision, applicants who submitted a timely appeal may be given the benefit of the new or changed policies.

However, not all policies apply retroactively.

For example, in the April 2003 Second Report and Order, the FCC directed USAC to consider voice mail eligible starting in Funding Year (FY) 2004 (7/1/04-6/30/05). Since that policy change went into effect for a specific funding year, it was not applied to appeals or applications from previous funding years.

USAC will generally accept new information on appeal consistent with these guidelines. If the appellant submits new information on appeal which contradicts information currently in the file, USAC will give the appellant an opportunity to explain the discrepancy. However, if the appellant is unable to explain the discrepancy, USAC will not accept the new information submitted on appeal.

Accepting New Information

USAC will not accept new information on appeal if it is apparent that the documentation submitted is not the original documentation and was instead, created in response to a USAC request during the appeal review.

USAC also may not accept new information on appeal if it is clear that the applicant was not working with USAC in good faith. For example, if the applicant refused to provide the documentation during the original review of the application or did not respond to USAC inquiries, USAC may not accept the new information submitted on appeal.

Finally, it is important to understand that USAC can grant an appeal assuming no other issues are identified during the appeal review that would lead to a denial. If, on appeal, the basis for a funding denial is successfully refuted, USAC must examine all remaining aspects of the funding request to ensure that all program rules were met. If another reason for denial is not appealed or the appellant does not present a successful argument to USAC's original decision, the appeal will be denied. All funding request denial reasons must be overcome on appeal for USAC to fund the Funding Request Number (FRN).

If USAC makes a new decision to deny funding, the appellant will have 60 days from the date of USAC's decision letter to file a new appeal with the FCC.