VI. Applying for Discounts
Q: What must schools and libraries do before applying for discounted services?
A: Schools and libraries must prepare technology plans covering both the near term and the future. Technology plans should specify how schools and libraries plan to integrate the use of these technologies into their curriculum. The Commission concluded that, to ensure that these technology plans are based on the reasonable needs and resources of the applicant and are consistent with the goals of the program, the plans must receive independent approval, ideally by a state agency that oversees schools or libraries. In addition, the Commission is working with the U.S. Department of Education to develop alternative approval procedures.
Q: If a school or library has a technology plan that has already been approved for another purpose, will that school or library have to go through another approval process?
A: No. Plans that have been approved for other purposes, e.g., for participation in federal or state programs such as "Goals 2000" or the Technology Literacy Challenge, will be accepted without need for further independent approval.
Q: What do states have to do before their schools and libraries may apply for discounted services?
A: Before their schools and libraries are eligible to apply for discounted services, states must adopt a discount matrix for intrastate services with entries at least equal to those in the discount matrix for interstate services adopted by the Commission. It is important to note, however, that the federal universa service support mechanism will pay for schools' and libraries' discounts on both intrastate and interstate services.
Q: How will schools and libraries apply for discounted services?
A: Schools and libraries will be required to participate in a competitive bidding process in order to apply for discounted services. Schools and libraries will be required to complete an application which will include a description of the services requested, self-certification of the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program, and self-certification that the school or library is eligible to participate in the universal service discount program and that it will not resell any discounted services. The completed application will be submitted to the universal service administrator, who will post it on a website dedicated exclusively to this purpose. Competing providers will then have the opportunity to bid on the schools' and libraries' descriptions of services. Schools and libraries will be required to wait four weeks after their applications are posted on the website before they may sign contracts with their chosen service providers.
Q: Is there any limit on the amount that service providers can charge eligible schools and libraries for services eligible for universal service discounts?
A: Yes. The Commission called the amount that service providers charge to schools and libraries prior to the application of a discount the "pre-discount price." The Commission concluded the pre-discount price cannot exceed the lowest price charged to similarly situated non-residential customers ("lowest corresponding price"). Carriers may not be selected to be a school's or library's provider of discounted services if the carriers submit bids higher than the lowest corresponding price. In areas in which there is no competition (i.e., only one provider), this lowest corresponding price would be the pre-discount price.
Q: How does the Commission suggest resolving disputes over the lowest corresponding price that may arise between providers and schools or libraries?
A: The Commission concluded that schools or libraries should be allowed to seek recourse from the Commission if a complaint involves interstate rates, and from a state commission if a complaint involves intrastate rates.
Q: Will the Commission's competitive bidding process take the place of state and local competitive bidding requirements?
A: No. The submission of a description of services for posting on the administrator's website is in no way intended as a substitute for state, local, or other procurement processes.
Q: How detailed a description of services must a school or library submit?
A: The Commission will require schools and libraries to submit descriptions of services that are detailed enough to allow providers to evaluate reasonably the requests and submit bids. This approach is consistent with the Commission's efforts to ensure that all eligible schools and libraries have the opportunity to participate in the universal service discount program. Schools and libraries may, however, submit formal and more detailed requests for proposals (RFPs), if that is required or is most consistent with their own state or local procurement requirements.
Q: Who is preparing the applications that schools and libraries will submit to the universal service administrator?
A: The Commission is working with the U.S. Department of Education and the states to design the schools and libraries applications.
Q: Must schools and libraries apply for discounts each year?
A: Yes. In order to ensure that the greatest number of schools and libraries is able to participate in the universal service discount program, the Commission concluded that schools and libraries should be required to apply each year to participate in the program.