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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of November 14, 2019

Title 47Chapter ISubchapter BPart 54 → Subpart F


Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 54—UNIVERSAL SERVICE


Subpart F—Universal Service Support for Schools and Libraries


Contents
§54.500   Terms and definitions.
§54.501   Eligible recipients.
§54.502   Eligible services.
§54.503   Competitive bidding requirements.
§54.504   Requests for services.
§54.505   Discounts.
§54.506   [Reserved]
§54.507   Cap.
§§54.508-54.509   [Reserved]
§54.511   Ordering services.
§54.513   Resale and transfer of services.
§54.514   Payment for discounted services.
§54.515   Distributing support.
§54.516   Auditing and inspections.
§§54.517-54.518   [Reserved]
§54.519   State telecommunications networks.
§54.520   Children's Internet Protection Act certifications required from recipients of discounts under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries.
§54.522   [Reserved]
§54.523   Payment for the non-discount portion of supported services.
§54.600   Terms and definitions.
§54.601   Health care provider eligibility.
§54.602   Health care support mechanism.

Telecommunications Program

§54.603   Consortia, telecommunications services, and existing contracts.
§54.604   Determining the urban rate.
§54.605   Determining the rural rate.
§54.606   Calculating support.

Healthcare Connect Fund Program

§54.607   Eligible recipients.
§54.608   Eligible service providers.
§54.609   Designation of Consortium Leader.
§54.610   Letters of agency (LOA).
§54.611   Health care provider contribution.
§54.612   Eligible services.
§54.613   Eligible equipment.
§54.614   Eligible participant-constructed and owned network facilities for consortium applicants.
§54.615   Off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.
§54.616   Upfront payments.
§54.617   Ineligible expenses.
§54.618   Data collection and reporting.

General Provisions

§54.619   Cap.
§54.620   Annual filing requirements and commitments.
§54.621   Filing window for requests and prioritization of support.
§54.622   Competitive bidding requirements and exemptions.
§54.623   Funding requests.
§54.624   Site and service substitutions.
§54.625   Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) changes.
§54.626   Service delivery deadline and extension requests.
§54.627   Invoicing process and certifications.
§54.628   Duplicate support.
§54.629   Prohibition on resale.
§54.630   Election to offset support against annual universal service fund contribution.
§54.631   Audits and recordkeeping.
§54.632   Signature requirements for certifications.
§54.633   Validity of electronic signatures and records.

Defined Terms and Eligibility

§54.600   Terms and definitions.
§54.601   Health care provider eligibility.
§54.602   Health care support mechanism.

Telecommunications Program

§54.603   Competitive bidding and certification requirements.
§54.604   Consortia, telecommunications services, and existing contracts.
§54.605   Determining the urban rate.
§54.607   Determining the rural rate.
§54.609   Calculating support.
§54.613   Limitations on supported services for rural health care providers.
§54.615   Obtaining services.
§54.619   Audits and recordkeeping.
§54.623   Annual filing and funding commitment requirement.
§54.625   Support for telecommunications services beyond the maximum supported distance for rural health care providers.

Healthcare Connect Fund

§54.630   Eligible recipients.
§54.631   Designation of Consortium Leader.
§54.632   Letters of agency (LOA).
§54.633   Health care provider contribution.
§54.634   Eligible services.
§54.635   Eligible equipment.
§54.636   Eligible participant-constructed and owned network facilities for consortium applicants.
§54.637   Off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.
§54.638   Upfront payments.
§54.639   Ineligible expenses.
§54.640   Eligible vendors.
§54.642   Competitive bidding requirement and exemptions.
§54.643   Funding commitments.
§54.644   Multi-year commitments.
§54.645   Payment process.
§54.646   Site and service substitutions.
§54.647   Data collection and reporting.
§54.648   Audits and recordkeeping.
§54.649   Certifications.

General Provisions

§54.671   Resale.
§54.672   Duplicate support.
§54.675   Cap.
§54.679   Election to offset support against annual universal service fund contribution.
§54.680   Validity of electronic signatures.

§54.500   Terms and definitions.

Basic maintenance. A service is eligible for support as a “basic maintenance” service if, but for the maintenance at issue, the internal connection would not function and serve its intended purpose with the degree of reliability ordinarily provided in the marketplace to entities receiving such services. Basic maintenance services do not include services that maintain equipment that is not supported by E-rate or that enhance the utility of equipment beyond the transport of information, or diagnostic services in excess of those necessary to maintain the equipment's ability to transport information.

Billed entity. A “billed entity” is the entity that remits payment to service providers for services rendered to eligible schools and libraries.

Consortium. A “consortium” is any local, statewide, regional, or interstate cooperative association of schools and/or libraries eligible for E-rate support that seeks competitive bids for eligible services or funding for eligible services on behalf of some or all of its members. A consortium may also include health care providers eligible under subpart G of this part, and public sector (governmental) entities, including, but not limited to, state colleges and state universities, state educational broadcasters, counties, and municipalities, although such entities are not eligible for support. Eligible schools and libraries may not join consortia with ineligible private sector members unless the pre-discount prices of any services that such consortium receives are generally tariffed rates.

Educational purposes. For purposes of this subpart, activities that are integral, immediate, and proximate to the education of students, or in the case of libraries, integral, immediate and proximate to the provision of library services to library patrons, qualify as “educational purposes.” Activities that occur on library or school property are presumed to be integral, immediate, and proximate to the education of students or the provision of library services to library patrons.

Elementary school. An “elementary school” means an elementary school as defined in 20 U.S.C. 7801(18), a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education, as determined under state law.

Internal connections. A service is eligible for support as a component of an institution's “internal connections” if such service is necessary to transport or distribute broadband within one or more instructional buildings of a single school campus or within one or more non-administrative buildings that comprise a single library branch.

Library. A “library” includes:

(1) A public library;

(2) A public elementary school or secondary school library;

(3) An academic library;

(4) A research library, which for the purpose of this section means a library that:

(i) Makes publicly available library services and materials suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available to the public; and

(ii) Is not an integral part of an institution of higher education; and

(5) A private library, but only if the state in which such private library is located determines that the library should be considered a library for the purposes of this definition.

Library consortium. A “library consortium” is any local, statewide, regional, or interstate cooperative association of libraries that provides for the systematic and effective coordination of the resources of schools, public, academic, and special libraries and information centers, for improving services to the clientele of such libraries. For the purposes of these rules, references to library will also refer to library consortium.

Lowest corresponding price. “Lowest corresponding price” is the lowest price that a service provider charges to non-residential customers who are similarly situated to a particular school, library, or library consortium for similar services.

Managed internal broadband services. A service is eligible for support as “managed internal broadband services” if provided by a third party for the operation, management, and monitoring of the eligible components of a school or library local area network (LAN) and/or wireless LAN.

Master contract. A “master contract” is a contract negotiated with a service provider by a third party, the terms and conditions of which are then made available to an eligible school, library, rural health care provider, or consortium that purchases directly from the service provider.

Minor contract modification. A “minor contract modification” is a change to a universal service contract that is within the scope of the original contract and has no effect or merely a negligible effect on price, quantity, quality, or delivery under the original contract.

National school lunch program. The “national school lunch program” is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies that provides free or reduced price lunches to economically disadvantaged children. A child whose family income is between 130 percent and 185 percent of applicable family size income levels contained in the nonfarm poverty guidelines prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget is eligible for a reduced price lunch. A child whose family income is 130 percent or less of applicable family size income levels contained in the nonfarm income poverty guidelines prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget is eligible for a free lunch.

Pre-discount price. The “pre-discount price” means, in this subpart, the price the service provider agrees to accept as total payment for its telecommunications or information services. This amount is the sum of the amount the service provider expects to receive from the eligible school or library and the amount it expects to receive as reimbursement from the universal service support mechanisms for the discounts provided under this subpart.

Secondary school. A “secondary school” means a secondary school as defined in 20 U.S.C. 7801(38), a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under state law except that the term does not include any education beyond grade 12.

State telecommunications network. A “state telecommunications network” is a state government entity that procures, among other things, telecommunications offerings from multiple service providers and bundles such offerings into packages available to schools, libraries, or rural health care providers that are eligible for universal service support, or a state government entity that provides, using its own facilities, such telecommunications offerings to such schools, libraries, and rural health care providers.

Voice services. “Voice services” include local phone service, long distance service, plain old telephone service (POTS), radio loop, 800 service, satellite telephone, shared telephone service, Centrex, wireless telephone service such as cellular, interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), and the circuit capacity dedicated to providing voice services.

Wide area network. For purposes of this subpart, a “wide area network” is a voice or data network that provides connections from one or more computers within an eligible school or library to one or more computers or networks that are external to such eligible school or library. Excluded from this definition is a voice or data network that provides connections between or among instructional buildings of a single school campus or between or among non-administrative buildings of a single library branch.

[63 FR 2128, Jan. 13, 1998, as amended at 68 FR 36942, June 20, 2003; 76 FR 56302, Sept. 13, 2011; 79 FR 49197, Aug. 19, 2014; 79 FR 68634, Nov. 18, 2014]

§54.501   Eligible recipients.

(a) Schools. (1) Only schools meeting the statutory definition of “elementary school” or “secondary school” as defined in §54.500 of this subpart, and not excluded under paragraphs (a)(2) or (3) of this section shall be eligible for discounts on telecommunications and other supported services under this subpart.

(2) Schools operating as for-profit businesses shall not be eligible for discounts under this subpart.

(3) Schools with endowments exceeding $50,000,000 shall not be eligible for discounts under this subpart.

(b) Libraries. (1) Only libraries eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act (Pub. L. 104-208) and not excluded under paragraphs (b)(2) or (3) of this section shall be eligible for discounts under this subpart.

(2) A library's eligibility for universal service funding shall depend on its funding as an independent entity. Only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools (including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities) shall be eligible for discounts as libraries under this subpart.

(3) Libraries operating as for-profit businesses shall not be eligible for discounts under this subpart.

(c) Consortia.

(1) For consortia, discounts under this subpart shall apply only to the portion of eligible telecommunications and other supported services used by eligible schools and libraries.

(2) Service providers shall keep and retain records of rates charged to and discounts allowed for eligible schools and libraries—on their own or as part of a consortium. Such records shall be available for public inspection.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 63 FR 2129, Jan. 13, 1998; 68 FR 36942, June 20, 2003; 75 FR 75411, Dec. 3, 2010; 76 FR 56302, Sept. 13, 2011; 79 FR 49198, Aug. 19, 2014; 79 FR 68634, Nov. 18, 2014]

§54.502   Eligible services.

(a) Supported services. All supported services are listed in the Eligible Services List as updated annually in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section. The services in this subpart will be supported in addition to all reasonable charges that are incurred by taking such services, such as state and federal taxes. Charges for termination liability, penalty surcharges, and other charges not included in the cost of taking such service shall not be covered by the universal service support mechanisms. The supported services fall within the following general categories:

(1) Category one. Telecommunications services, telecommunications, and Internet access, as defined in §54.5 and described in the Eligible Services List are category one supported services.

(2) Category two. Internal connections, basic maintenance and managed internal broadband services as defined in §54.500 and described in the Eligible Services List are category two supported services.

(b) Funding years 2015-2019. Libraries, schools, or school districts with schools that receive funding for category two services in any of the funding years between 2015 and 2019 shall be eligible for support for category two services pursuant to paragraphs (b)(1) through (6) of this section.

(1) Five-year budget. Each eligible school or library shall be eligible for a budgeted amount of support for category two services over a five-year funding cycle beginning the first funding year support is received. Excluding support for internal connections received prior to funding year 2015, each school or library shall be eligible for the total available budget less any support received for category two services in the prior funding years of that school's or library's five-year funding cycle. The budgeted amounts and the funding floor shall be adjusted for inflation annually in accordance with §54.507(a)(2).

(2) School budget. Each eligible school shall be eligible for support for category two services up to a pre-discount price of $150 per student over a five-year funding cycle. Applicants shall provide the student count per school, calculated at the time that the discount is calculated each funding year. New schools may estimate the number of students, but shall repay any support provided in excess of the maximum budget based on student enrollment the following funding year.

(3) Library budget. Each eligible library shall be eligible for support for category two services, up to a pre-discount price of $2.30 per square foot over a five-year funding cycle. Libraries shall provide the total area for all floors, in square feet, of each library outlet separately, including all areas enclosed by the outer walls of the library outlet and occupied by the library, including those areas off-limits to the public.

(4) Funding floor. Each eligible school and library will be eligible for support for category two services up to at least a pre-discount price of $9,200 over five funding years.

(5) Requests. Applicants shall request support for category two services for each school or library based on the number of students per school building or square footage per library building. Category two funding for a school or library may not be used for another school or library. If an applicant requests less than the maximum budget available for a school or library, the applicant may request the remaining balance in a school's or library's category two budget in subsequent funding years of a five year cycle. The costs for category two services shared by multiple eligible entities shall be divided reasonably between each of the entities for which support is sought in that funding year.

(6) Non-instructional buildings. Support is not available for category two services provided to or within non-instructional school buildings or separate library administrative buildings unless those category two services are essential for the effective transport of information to or within one or more instructional buildings of a school or non-administrative library buildings, or the Commission has found that the use of those services meets the definition of educational purpose, as defined in §54.500. When applying for category two support for eligible services to a non-instructional school building or library administrative building, the applicant shall allocate the cost of providing services to one or more of the eligible school or library buildings that benefit from those services being provided.

(c) Funding year 2020 and beyond. Absent further action from the Commission, each eligible library or school in a school district that either did not receive funding for category two services in funding years 2015 through 2019 or has completed its five-year funding cycle, shall be eligible for support for category two services, except basic maintenance services, no more than twice every five funding years. For the purpose of determining eligibility, the five-year period begins in any funding year in which the school or library receives discounted category two services other than basic maintenance services. If a school or library receives category two services other than basic maintenance services that are shared with other schools or libraries (for example, as part of a consortium), the shared services will be attributed to the school or library in determining whether it is eligible for support. Support is not available for category two services provided to or within non-instructional school buildings or separate library administrative buildings unless those category two services are essential for the effective transport of information to or within one or more instructional buildings of a school or non-administrative library buildings, or the Commission has found that the use of those services meets the definition of educational purpose, as defined in §54.500.

(d) Eligible services list process. The Administrator shall submit by March 30 of each year a draft list of services eligible for support, based on the Commission's rules for the following funding year. The Wireline Competition Bureau will issue a Public Notice seeking comment on the Administrator's proposed eligible services list. The final list of services eligible for support will be released at least 60 days prior to the opening of the application filing window for the following funding year.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 79 FR 49198, Aug. 19, 2014; 79 FR 68634, Nov. 18, 2014;80 FR 5988, Feb. 4, 2015]

§54.503   Competitive bidding requirements.

(a) All entities participating in the schools and libraries universal service support program must conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process, consistent with all requirements set forth in this subpart.

Note to paragraph (a): The following is an illustrative list of activities or behaviors that would not result in a fair and open competitive bidding process: the applicant for supported services has a relationship with a service provider that would unfairly influence the outcome of a competition or would furnish the service provider with inside information; someone other than the applicant or an authorized representative of the applicant prepares, signs, and submits the FCC Form 470 and certification; a service provider representative is listed as the FCC Form 470 contact person and allows that service provider to participate in the competitive bidding process; the service provider prepares the applicant's FCC Form 470 or participates in the bid evaluation or vendor selection process in any way; the applicant turns over to a service provider the responsibility for ensuring a fair and open competitive bidding process; an applicant employee with a role in the service provider selection process also has an ownership interest in the service provider seeking to participate in the competitive bidding process; and the applicant's FCC Form 470 does not describe the supported services with sufficient specificity to enable interested service providers to submit responsive bids.

(b) Competitive bid requirements. Except as provided in §54.511(c), an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library shall seek competitive bids, pursuant to the requirements established in this subpart, for all services eligible for support under §54.502. These competitive bid requirements apply in addition to state and local competitive bid requirements and are not intended to preempt such state or local requirements.

(c) Posting of FCC Form 470. (1) An eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library seeking bids for eligible services under this subpart shall submit a completed FCC Form 470 to the Administrator to initiate the competitive bidding process. The FCC Form 470 and any request for proposal cited in the FCC Form 470 shall include, at a minimum, the following information:

(i) A list of specified services for which the school, library, or consortium requests bids;

(ii) Sufficient information to enable bidders to reasonably determine the needs of the applicant;

(iii) To the extent an applicant seeks the following services or arrangements, an indication of the applicant's intent to seek:

(A) Construction of network facilities that the applicant will own;

(B) A dark-fiber lease, indefeasible right of use, or other dark-fiber service agreement or the modulating electronics necessary to light dark fiber; or

(C) A multi-year installment payment agreement with the service provider for the non-discounted share of special construction costs;

(iv) To the extent an applicant seeks construction of a network that the applicant will own, the applicant must also solicit bids for both the services provided over third-party networks and construction of applicant-owned network facilities, in the same request for proposals;

(v) To the extent an applicant seeks bids for special construction associated with dark fiber or bids to lease and light dark fiber, the applicant must also solicit bids to provide the needed services over lit fiber; and

(vi) To the extent an applicant seeks bids for equipment and maintenance costs associated with lighting dark fiber, the applicant must include these elements in the same FCC Form 470 as the dark fiber.

(2) The FCC Form 470 shall be signed by a person authorized to request bids for eligible services for the eligible school, library, or consortium, including such entities.

(i) A person authorized to request bids on behalf of the entities listed on an FCC Form 470 shall certify under oath that:

(A) The schools meet the statutory definition of “elementary school” or “secondary school” as defined in §54.500 of these rules, do not operate as for-profit businesses, and do not have endowments exceeding $50 million.

(B) The libraries or library consortia eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act of 1996 do not operate as for-profit businesses and have budgets that are completely separate from any school (including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities).

(C) Support under this support mechanism is conditional upon the school(s) and library(ies) securing access to all of the resources, including computers, training, software, maintenance, internal connections, and electrical connections necessary to use the services purchased effectively.

(ii) A person authorized to both request bids and order services on behalf of the entities listed on an FCC Form 470 shall, in addition to making the certifications listed in paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section, certify under oath that:

(A) The services the school, library, or consortium purchases at discounts will be used primarily for educational purposes and will not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value, except as allowed by §54.513.

(B) All bids submitted for eligible products and services will be carefully considered, with price being the primary factor, and the bid selected will be for the most cost-effective service offering consistent with §54.511.

(3) The Administrator shall post each FCC Form 470 that it receives from an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library on its Web site designated for this purpose.

(4) After posting on the Administrator's Web site an eligible school, library, or consortium FCC Form 470, the Administrator shall send confirmation of the posting to the entity requesting service. That entity shall then wait at least four weeks from the date on which its description of services is posted on the Administrator's Web site before making commitments with the selected providers of services. The confirmation from the Administrator shall include the date after which the requestor may sign a contract with its chosen provider(s).

(d) Gift restrictions. (1) Subject to paragraphs (d)(3) and (4) of this section, an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value from a service provider participating in or seeking to participate in the schools and libraries universal service program. No such service provider shall offer or provide any such gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or other thing of value except as otherwise provided herein. Modest refreshments not offered as part of a meal, items with little intrinsic value intended solely for presentation, and items worth $20 or less, including meals, may be offered or provided, and accepted by any individuals or entities subject to this rule, if the value of these items received by any individual does not exceed $50 from any one service provider per funding year. The $50 amount for any service provider shall be calculated as the aggregate value of all gifts provided during a funding year by the individuals specified in paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section.

(2) For purposes of this paragraph:

(i) The terms “school, library, or consortium” include all individuals who are on the governing boards of such entities (such as members of a school committee), and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, consultants or independent contractors of such entities involved on behalf of such school, library, or consortium with the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (E-rate Program), including individuals who prepare, approve, sign or submit E-rate applications, or other forms related to the E-rate Program, or who prepare bids, communicate or work with E-rate service providers, E-rate consultants, or with USAC, as well as any staff of such entities responsible for monitoring compliance with the E-rate Program; and

(ii) The term “service provider” includes all individuals who are on the governing boards of such an entity (such as members of the board of directors), and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, or independent contractors of such entities.

(3) The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be applicable to the provision of any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value, to the extent given to a family member or a friend working for an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library, provided that such transactions:

(i) Are motivated solely by a personal relationship,

(ii) Are not rooted in any service provider business activities or any other business relationship with any such eligible school, library, or consortium, and

(iii) Are provided using only the donor's personal funds that will not be reimbursed through any employment or business relationship.

(4) Any service provider may make charitable donations to an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library in the support of its programs as long as such contributions are not directly or indirectly related to E-rate procurement activities or decisions and are not given by service providers to circumvent competitive bidding and other E-rate program rules, including those in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(C) of this section, requiring schools and libraries to pay their own non-discount share for the services they are purchasing.

(e) Exemption to competitive bidding requirements. An applicant that seeks support for commercially available high-speed Internet access services for a pre-discount price of $3,600 or less per school or library annually is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements in paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section.

(1) Internet access, as defined in §54.5, is eligible for this exemption only if the purchased service offers at least 100 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream.

(2) The Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, is delegated authority to lower the annual cost of high-speed Internet access services or raise the speed threshold of broadband services eligible for this competitive bidding exemption, based on a determination of what rates and speeds are commercially available prior to the start of the funding year.

[75 FR 75412, Dec. 3, 2010, as amended at 76 FR 56302, Sept. 13, 2011; 79 FR 49199, Aug. 19, 2014; 80 FR 5989, Feb. 4, 2015]

Editorial Note: At 83 FR , May 1,2018, §54.503 was amended by revising paragraph (a)(6) however the agency provided two different paragraph (a)(6)'s, the amendment could not be incorporated due to inaccurate amendatory instruction.

§54.504   Requests for services.

(a) Filing of the FCC Form 471. An eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library seeking to receive discounts for eligible services under this subpart shall, upon entering into a signed contract or other legally binding agreement for eligible services, submit a completed FCC Form 471 to the Administrator.

(1) The FCC Form 471 shall be signed by the person authorized to order eligible services for the eligible school, library, or consortium and shall include that person's certification under oath that:

(i) The schools meet the statutory definition of “elementary school” or “secondary school” as defined in §54.500 of this subpart, do not operate as for-profit businesses, and do not have endowments exceeding $50 million.

(ii) The libraries or library consortia eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act of 1996 do not operate as for-profit businesses and whose budgets are completely separate from any school (including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities).

(iii) The entities listed on the FCC Form 471 application have secured access to all of the resources, including computers, training, software, maintenance, internal connections, and electrical connections, necessary to make effective use of the services purchased. The entities listed on the FCC Form 471 will pay the discounted charges for eligible services from funds to which access has been secured in the current funding year or, for entities that will make installment payments, they will ensure that they are able to make all required installment payments. The billed entity will pay the non-discount portion of the cost of the goods and services to the service provider(s).

(iv) The entities listed on the FCC Form 471 application have complied with all applicable state and local laws regarding procurement of services for which support is being sought.

(v) The services the school, library, or consortium purchases at discounts will be used primarily for educational purposes and will not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value, except as allowed by §54.513.

(vi) The entities listed in the application have complied with all program rules and acknowledge that failure to do so may result in denial of discount funding and/or recovery of funding.

(vii) The applicant understands that the discount level used for shared services is conditional, for future years, upon ensuring that the most disadvantaged schools and libraries that are treated as sharing in the service, receive an appropriate share of benefits from those services.

(viii) The applicant recognizes that it may be audited pursuant to its application, that it will retain for ten years any and all worksheets and other records relied upon to fill out its application, and that, if audited, it will make such records available to the Administrator.

(ix) Except as exempted by §54.503(e), all bids submitted to a school, library, or consortium seeking eligible services were carefully considered and the most cost-effective bid was selected in accordance with §54.503 of this subpart, with price being the primary factor considered, and it is the most cost-effective means of meeting educational needs and technology goals.

(2) All pricing and technology infrastructure information submitted as part of an FCC Form 471 shall be treated as public and non-confidential by the Administrator unless the applicant specifies a statute, rule, or other restriction, such as a court order or an existing contract limitation barring public release of the information.

(i) Contracts and other agreements executed after adoption of this rule may not prohibit disclosure of pricing or technology infrastructure information.

(ii) The exemption for existing contract limitations shall not apply to voluntary extensions or renewals of existing contracts.

(b) Mixed eligibility requests. If 30 percent or more of a request for discounts made in an FCC Form 471 is for ineligible services, the request shall be denied in its entirety.

(c) Rate disputes. Schools, libraries, and consortia including those entities, and service providers may have recourse to the Commission, regarding interstate rates, and to state commissions, regarding intrastate rates, if they reasonably believe that the lowest corresponding price is unfairly high or low.

(1) Schools, libraries, and consortia including those entities may request lower rates if the rate offered by the carrier does not represent the lowest corresponding price.

(2) Service providers may request higher rates if they can show that the lowest corresponding price is not compensatory, because the relevant school, library, or consortium including those entities is not similarly situated to and subscribing to a similar set of services to the customer paying the lowest corresponding price.

(d) Service substitution. (1) The Administrator shall grant a request by an applicant to substitute a service or product for one identified on its FCC Form 471 where:

(i) The service or product has the same functionality;

(ii) The substitution does not violate any contract provisions or state or local procurement laws;

(iii) The substitution does not result in an increase in the percentage of ineligible services or functions; and

(iv) The applicant certifies that the requested change is within the scope of the controlling FCC Form 470, including any associated Requests for Proposal, for the original services.

(2) In the event that a service substitution results in a change in the pre-discount price for the supported service, support shall be based on the lower of either the pre-discount price of the service for which support was originally requested or the pre-discount price of the new, substituted service.

(3) For purposes of this rule, the two categories of eligible services are not deemed to have the same functionality as one another.

(e) Mixed eligibility services. A request for discounts for a product or service that includes both eligible and ineligible components must allocate the cost of the contract to eligible and ineligible components.

(1) Ineligible components. If a product or service contains ineligible components, costs must be allocated to the extent that a clear delineation can be made between the eligible and ineligible components. The delineation must have a tangible basis, and the price for the eligible portion must be the most cost-effective means of receiving the eligible service.

(2) Ancillary ineligible components. If a product or service contains ineligible components that are ancillary to the eligible components, and the product or service is the most cost-effective means of receiving the eligible component functionality, without regard to the value of the ineligible component, costs need not be allocated between the eligible and ineligible components. Discounts shall be provided on the full cost of the product or service. An ineligible component is “ancillary” if a price for the ineligible component cannot be determined separately and independently from the price of the eligible components, and the specific package remains the most cost-effective means of receiving the eligible services, without regard to the value of the ineligible functionality.

(3) The Administrator shall utilize the cost allocation requirements of this paragraph in evaluating mixed eligibility requests under paragraph (e)(1) of this section.

(f) Filing of FCC Form 473. All service providers eligible to provide telecommunications and other supported services under this subpart shall submit annually a completed FCC Form 473 to the Administrator. The FCC Form 473 shall be signed by an authorized person and shall include that person's certification under oath that:

(1) The prices in any offer that this service provider makes pursuant to the schools and libraries universal service support program have been arrived at independently, without, for the purpose of restricting competition, any consultation, communication, or agreement with any other offeror or competitor relating to those prices, the intention to submit an offer, or the methods or factors used to calculate the prices offered;

(2) The prices in any offer that this service provider makes pursuant to the schools and libraries universal service support program will not be knowingly disclosed by this service provider, directly or indirectly, to any other offeror or competitor before bid opening (in the case of a sealed bid solicitation) or contract award (in the case of a negotiated solicitation) unless otherwise required by law; and

(3) No attempt will be made by this service provider to induce any other concern to submit or not to submit an offer for the purpose of restricting competition.

(4) The service provider listed on the FCC Form 473 certifies that the invoices that are submitted by this Service Provider to the Billed Entity for reimbursement pursuant to Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement Forms (FCC Form 472) are accurate and represent payments from the Billed Entity to the Service Provider for equipment and services provided pursuant to E-rate program rules.

(5) The service provider listed on the FCC Form 473 certifies that the bills or invoices issued by this service provider to the billed entity are for equipment and services eligible for universal service support by the Administrator, and exclude any charges previously invoiced to the Administrator by the service provider.

[79 FR 49199, Aug. 19, 2014, as amended at 79 FR 68634, Nov. 18, 2014; 80 FR 5989, Feb. 4, 2015]

§54.505   Discounts.

(a) Discount mechanism. Discounts for eligible schools and libraries shall be set as a percentage discount from the pre-discount price.

(b) Discount percentages. Except as provided in paragraph (f), the discounts available to eligible schools and libraries shall range from 20 percent to 90 percent of the pre-discount price for all eligible services provided by eligible providers, as defined in this subpart. The discounts available to a particular school, library, or consortium of only such entities shall be determined by indicators of poverty and high cost.

(1) For schools and school districts, the level of poverty shall be based on the percentage of the student enrollment that is eligible for a free or reduced price lunch under the national school lunch program or a federally-approved alternative mechanism. School districts shall divide the total number of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program within the school district by the total number of students within the school district to arrive at a percentage of students eligible. This percentage rate shall then be applied to the discount matrix to set a discount rate for the supported services purchased by all schools within the school district. Independent charter schools, private schools, and other eligible educational facilities should calculate a single discount percentage rate based on the total number of students under the control of the central administrative agency.

(2) For libraries and library consortia, the level of poverty shall be based on the percentage of the student enrollment that is eligible for a free or reduced price lunch under the national school lunch program or a federally-approved alternative mechanism in the public school district in which they are located and should use that school district's level of poverty to determine their discount rate when applying as a library system or as an individual library outlet within that system. When a library system has branches or outlets in more than one public school district, that library system and all library outlets within that system should use the address of the central outlet or main administrative office to determine which school district the library system is in, and should use that school district's level of poverty to determine its discount rate when applying as a library system or as one or more library outlets. If the library is not in a school district, then its level of poverty shall be based on an average of the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program in each of the school districts that children living in the library's location attend.

(3) The Administrator shall classify schools and libraries as “urban” or “rural” according to the following designations.

(i) The Administrator shall designate a school or library as “urban” if the school or library is located in an urbanized area or urban cluster area with a population equal to or greater than 25,000, as determined by the most recent rural-urban classification by the Bureau of the Census. The Administrator shall designate all other schools and libraries as “rural.”

(4) School districts, library systems, or other billed entities shall calculate discounts on supported services described in §54.502(a) that are shared by two or more of their schools, libraries, or consortia members by calculating an average discount based on the applicable district-wide discounts of all member schools and libraries. School districts, library systems, or other billed entities shall ensure that, for each year in which an eligible school or library is included for purposes of calculating the aggregate discount rate, that eligible school or library shall receive a proportionate share of the shared services for which support is sought. For schools, the discount shall be a simple average of the applicable district-wide percentage for all schools sharing a portion of the shared services. For libraries, the average discount shall be a simple average of the applicable discounts to which the libraries sharing a portion of the shared services are entitled.

(c) Matrices. Except as provided in paragraphs (d) and (f) of this section, the Administrator shall use the following matrices to set discount rates to be applied to eligible category one and category two services purchased by eligible schools, school districts, libraries, or consortia based on the institution's level of poverty and location in an “urban” or “rural” area.

   Category one schools and libraries discount matrixCategory two schools and libraries discount matrix
   Discount levelDiscount level
% of students eligible for national school lunch programUrban
discount
Rural
discount
Urban
discount
Rural
discount
<120252025
1-1940504050
20-3450605060
35-4960706070
50-7480808080
75-10090908585

(d) Voice Services. Discounts for category one voice services shall be reduced by 20 percentage points off applicant discount percentage rates for each funding year starting in funding year 2015, and reduced by an additional 20 percentage points off applicant discount percentage rates each subsequent funding year.

(e) Interstate and intrastate services. Federal universal service support for schools and libraries shall be provided for both interstate and intrastate services.

(1) Federal universal service support under this subpart for eligible schools and libraries in a state is contingent upon the establishment of intrastate discounts no less than the discounts applicable for interstate services.

(2) A state may, however, secure a temporary waiver of this latter requirement based on unusually compelling conditions.

(f) Additional discounts for State matching funds for special construction. Federal universal service discounts shall be based on the price of a service prior to the application of any state-provided support for schools or libraries. When a governmental entity described below provides funding for special construction charges for networks that meet the long-term connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program, the Administrator shall match the governmental entity's contribution as provided for below:

(1) All E-rate applicants. When a State government provides funding for special construction charges for a broadband connection to a school or library the Administrator shall match the State's contribution on a one-dollar-to-one-dollar basis up to an additional 10 percent discount, provided however that the total support from federal universal service and the State may not exceed 100 percent.

(2) Tribal schools. When a State government, Tribal government, or federal agency provides funding for special construction charges for a broadband connection to a school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education or by a Tribal government, the Administrator shall match the governmental entity's contribution on a one-dollar-to-one-dollar basis up to an additional 10 percent discount, provided however that the total support from federal universal service and the governmental entity may not exceed 100 percent.

(3) Tribal libraries. When a State government, Tribal government, or federal agency provides funding for special construction charges for a broadband connection to a library operated by Tribal governments, the Administrator shall match the governmental entity's contribution on a one-dollar-to-one-dollar basis up to an additional 10 percent discount, provided however that the total support from federal universal service and the governmental entity may not exceed 100 percent.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 62 FR 41304, Aug. 1, 1997; 63 FR 2130, Jan. 13, 1998; 63 FR 70572, Dec. 21, 1998; 75 FR 75414, Dec. 3, 2010; 79 FR 49201, Aug. 19, 2014; 79 FR 68634, Nov. 18, 2014; 80 FR 5989, Feb. 4, 2015]

§54.506   [Reserved]

§54.507   Cap.

(a) Amount of the annual cap. The aggregate annual cap on federal universal service support for schools and libraries shall be $3.9 billion per funding year, of which $1 billion per funding year will be available for category two services, as described in §54.502(a)(2), unless demand for category one services is higher than available funding.

(1) Inflation increase. In funding year 2016 and subsequent funding years, the $3.9 billion funding cap on federal universal service support for schools and libraries shall be automatically increased annually to take into account increases in the rate of inflation as calculated in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(2) Increase calculation. To measure increases in the rate of inflation for the purposes of this paragraph (a), the Commission shall use the Gross Domestic Product Chain-type Price Index (GDP-CPI). To compute the annual increase as required by this paragraph (a), the percentage increase in the GDP-CPI from the previous year will be used. For instance, the annual increase in the GDP-CPI from 2008 to 2009 would be used for the 2010 funding year. The increase shall be rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent by rounding 0.05 percent and above to the next higher 0.1 percent and otherwise rounding to the next lower 0.1 percent. This percentage increase shall be added to the amount of the annual funding cap from the previous funding year. If the yearly average GDP-CPI decreases or stays the same, the annual funding cap shall remain the same as the previous year.

(3) Public notice. When the calculation of the yearly average GDP-CPI is determined, the Wireline Competition Bureau shall publish a public notice in the Federal Register within 60 days announcing any increase of the annual funding cap including any increase to the $1 billion funding level available for category two services based on the rate of inflation.

(4) Filing window requests. At the close of the filing window, if requests for category one services are greater than the available funding, the Administrator shall shift category two funds to provide support for category one services. If available funds are sufficient to meet demand for category one services, the Administrator, at the direction of the Wireline Competition Bureau, shall direct the remaining additional funds to provide support for category two requests.

(5) Amount of unused funds. All funds collected that are unused shall be carried forward into subsequent funding years for use in the schools and libraries support mechanism in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap. The Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, is delegated authority to determine the proportion of unused funds, if any, needed to meet category one demand, and to direct the Administrator to use any remaining funds to provide support for category two requests. The Administrator shall report to the Commission, on a quarterly basis, funding that is unused from prior years of the schools and libraries support mechanism.

(6) Application of unused funds. On an annual basis, in the second quarter of each calendar year, all funds that are collected and that are unused from prior years shall be available for use in the next full funding year of the schools and libraries mechanism in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap as described in this paragraph (a).

(b) Funding year. A funding year for purposes of the schools and libraries cap shall be the period July 1 through June 30.

(c) Requests. The Administrator shall implement an initial filing period that treats all schools and libraries filing an application within that period as if their applications were simultaneously received. The initial filing period shall begin and conclude on dates to be determined by the Administrator with the approval of the Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau. The Administrator shall maintain on the Administrator's Web site a running tally of the funds already committed for the existing funding year. The Administrator may implement such additional filing periods as it deems necessary.

(d) Annual filing requirement. (1) Schools and libraries, and consortia of such eligible entities shall file new funding requests for each funding year no sooner than the July 1 prior to the start of that funding year. Schools, libraries, and eligible consortia must use recurring services for which discounts have been committed by the Administrator within the funding year for which the discounts were sought.

(2) Installation of category one non-recurring services may begin on January 1 prior to the July 1 start of the funding year, provided the following conditions are met:

(i) Construction begins after selection of the service provider pursuant to a posted FCC Form 470,

(ii) A category one recurring service must depend on the installation of the infrastructure, and

(iii) The actual service start date for that recurring service is on or after the start of the funding year (July 1).

(3) Installation of category two non-recurring services may begin on April 1 prior to the July 1 start of the funding year.

(4) The deadline for implementation of all non-recurring services will be September 30 following the close of the funding year. An applicant may request and receive from the Administrator an extension of the implementation deadline for non-recurring services if it satisfies one of the following criteria:

(i) The applicant's funding commitment decision letter is issued by the Administrator on or after March 1 of the funding year for which discounts are authorized;

(ii) The applicant receives a service provider change authorization or service substitution authorization from the Administrator on or after March 1 of the funding year for which discounts are authorized;

(iii) The applicant's service provider is unable to complete implementation for reasons beyond the service provider's control; or

(iv) The applicant's service provider is unwilling to complete installation because funding disbursements are delayed while the Administrator investigates the application for program compliance.

(e) Long term contracts. If schools and libraries enter into long term contracts for eligible services, the Administrator shall only commit funds to cover the pro rata portion of such a long term contract scheduled to be delivered during the funding year for which universal service support is sought.

(f) Rules of distribution. When the filing period described in paragraph (c) of this section closes, the Administrator shall calculate the total demand for both category one and category two support submitted by applicants during the filing period. If total demand for the funding year exceeds the total support available for category one or both categories, the Administrator shall take the following steps:

(1) Category one. The Administrator shall first calculate the demand for category one services for all discount levels. The Administrator shall allocate the category one funds to these requests for support, beginning with the most economically disadvantaged schools and libraries, as determined by the schools and libraries discount matrix in §54.505(c). Schools and libraries eligible for a 90 percent discount shall receive first priority for the category one funds. The Administrator shall next allocate funds toward the requests submitted by schools and libraries eligible for an 80 percent discount, then for a 70 percent discount, and shall continue committing funds for category one services in the same manner to the applicants at each descending discount level until there are no funds remaining.

(2) Category two. The Administrator shall next calculate the demand for category two services for all discount categories as determined by the schools and libraries discount matrix in §54.505(c). If that demand exceeds the category two budget for that funding year, the Administrator shall allocate the category two funds beginning with the most economically disadvantaged schools and libraries, as determined by the schools and libraries discount matrix in §54.505(c). The Administrator shall allocate funds toward the category two requests submitted by schools and libraries eligible for an 85 percent discount first, then for a 80 percent discount, and shall continue committing funds in the same manner to the applicants at each descending discount level until there are no category two funds remaining.

(3) To the extent that there are single discount percentage levels associated with “shared services” under §54.505(b)(4), the Administrator shall allocate funds to the applicants at each descending discount level (e.g., 90 percent, 89 percent, then 88 percent) until there are no funds remaining.

(4) For both paragraphs (f)(1) and (2) of this section, if the remaining funds are not sufficient to support all of the funding requests within a particular discount level, the Administrator shall allocate funds at that discount level using the percentage of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Thus, if there is not enough support to fund all requests at the 40 percent discount level, the Administrator shall allocate funds beginning with those applicants with the highest percentage of NSLP eligibility for that discount level by funding those applicants with 19 percent NSLP eligibility, then 18 percent NSLP eligibility, and shall continue committing funds in the same manner to applicants at each descending percentage of NSLP until there are no funds remaining.

[79 FR 49201, Aug. 19, 2014, as amended at 80 FR 5990, Feb. 4, 2015]

§§54.508-54.509   [Reserved]

§54.511   Ordering services.

(a) Selecting a provider of eligible services. Except as exempted in §54.503(e), in selecting a provider of eligible services, schools, libraries, library consortia, and consortia including any of those entities shall carefully consider all bids submitted and must select the most cost-effective service offering. In determining which service offering is the most cost-effective, entities may consider relevant factors other than the pre-discount prices submitted by providers, but price should be the primary factor considered.

(b) Lowest corresponding price. Providers of eligible services shall not submit bids for or charge schools, school districts, libraries, library consortia, or consortia including any of these entities a price above the lowest corresponding price for supported services, unless the Commission, with respect to interstate services or the state commission with respect to intrastate services, finds that the lowest corresponding price is not compensatory. Promotional rates offered by a service provider for a period of more than 90 days must be included among the comparable rates upon which the lowest corresponding price is determined.

[79 FR 59203, Aug. 19, 2014]

§54.513   Resale and transfer of services.

(a) Prohibition on resale. Eligible supported services provided at a discount under this subpart shall not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration of money or any other thing of value, except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) Disposal of obsolete equipment components of eligible services. Eligible equipment components of eligible services purchased at a discount under this subpart shall be considered obsolete if the equipment components have has been installed for at least five years. Obsolete equipment components of eligible services may be resold or transferred in consideration of money or any other thing of value, disposed of, donated, or traded.

(c) Permissible fees. This prohibition on resale shall not bar schools, school districts, libraries, and library consortia from charging either computer lab fees or fees for classes in how to navigate over the Internet. There is no prohibition on the resale of services that are not purchased pursuant to the discounts provided in this subpart.

(d) Eligible services and equipment components of eligible services purchased at a discount under this subpart shall not be transferred, with or without consideration of money or any other thing of value, for a period of three years after purchase, except that eligible services and equipment components of eligible services may be transferred to another eligible school or library in the event that the particular location where the service originally was received is permanently or temporarily closed. If an eligible service or equipment component of a service is transferred due to the permanent or temporary closure of a school or library, the transferor must notify the Administrator of the transfer, and both the transferor and recipient must maintain detailed records documenting the transfer and the reason for the transfer for a period of five years.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 69 FR 6191, Feb. 10, 2004; 75 FR 75415, Dec. 3, 2010]

§54.514   Payment for discounted services.

(a) Invoice filing deadline. Invoices must be submitted to the Administrator:

(1) 120 days after the last day to receive service, or

(2) 120 days after the date of the FCC Form 486 Notification Letter, whichever is later.

(b) Invoice deadline extension. In advance of the deadline calculated pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, service providers or billed entities may request a one-time extension of the invoicing deadline. The Administrator shall grant a 120 day extension of the invoice filing deadline, if it is timely requested.

(c) Choice of payment method. Service providers providing discounted services under this subpart in any funding year shall, prior to the submission of the FCC Form 471, permit the billed entity to choose the method of payment for the discounted services from those methods approved by the Administrator, including by making a full, undiscounted payment and receiving subsequent reimbursement of the discount amount from the Administrator.

[79 FR 49203, Aug. 19, 2014]

§54.515   Distributing support.

(a) A telecommunications carrier providing services eligible for support under this subpart to eligible schools and libraries may, at the election of the carrier, treat the amount eligible for support under this subpart as an offset against the carrier's universal service contribution obligation for the year in which the costs for providing eligible services were incurred or receive a direct reimbursement from the Administrator for that amount. Carriers shall elect in January of each year the method by which they will be reimbursed and shall remain subject to that method for the duration of the calendar year. Any support amount that is owed a carrier that fails to remit its monthly universal service contribution obligation, however, shall first be applied as an offset to that carrier's contribution obligation. Such a carrier shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the remainder of the calendar year in which it failed to remit their monthly universal service obligation. A carrier that continues to be in arrears on its universal service contribution obligations at the end of a calendar year shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the next calendar year.

(b) If a telecommunications carrier elects to treat the amount eligible for support under this subpart as an offset against the carrier's universal service contribution obligation and the total amount of support owed to the carrier exceeds its universal service obligation, calculated on an annual basis, the carrier shall receive a direct reimbursement in the amount of the difference. Any such reimbursement due a carrier shall be submitted to that carrier no later than the end of the first quarter of the calendar year following the year in which the costs were incurred and the offset against the carrier's universal service obligation was applied.

[63 FR 67009, Dec. 4, 1998]

§54.516   Auditing and inspections.

(a) Recordkeeping requirements—(1) Schools, libraries, and consortia. Schools, libraries, and any consortium that includes schools or libraries shall retain all documents related to the application for, receipt, and delivery of supported services for at least 10 years after the latter of the last day of the applicable funding year or the service delivery deadline for the funding request. Any other document that demonstrates compliance with the statutory or regulatory requirements for the schools and libraries mechanism shall be retained as well. Schools, libraries, and consortia shall maintain asset and inventory records of equipment purchased as components of supported category two services sufficient to verify the actual location of such equipment for a period of 10 years after purchase.

(2) Service providers. Service providers shall retain documents related to the delivery of supported services for at least 10 years after the latter of the last day of the applicable funding year or the service delivery deadline for the funding request. Any other document that demonstrates compliance with the statutory or regulatory requirements for the schools and libraries mechanism shall be retained as well.

(b) Production of records. Schools, libraries, consortia, and service providers shall produce such records at the request of any representative (including any auditor) appointed by a state education department, the Administrator, the FCC, or any local, state or federal agency with jurisdiction over the entity.

(c) Audits. Schools, libraries, consortia, and service providers shall be subject to audits and other investigations to evaluate their compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements for the schools and libraries universal service support mechanism, including those requirements pertaining to what services and products are purchased, what services and products are delivered, and how services and products are being used. Schools, libraries, and consortia receiving discounted services must provide consent before a service provider releases confidential information to the auditor, reviewer, or other representative.

(d) Inspections. Schools, libraries, consortia and service providers shall permit any representative (including any auditor) appointed by a state education department, the Administrator, the Commission or any local, state or federal agency with jurisdiction over the entity to enter their premises to conduct E-rate compliance inspections.

[79 FR 49203, Aug. 19, 2014]

§§54.517-54.518   [Reserved]

§54.519   State telecommunications networks.

(a) Telecommunications services. State telecommunications networks may secure discounts under the universal service support mechanisms on supported telecommunications services (as described in §54.502(a)) on behalf of eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) or consortia that include an eligible school or library. Such state telecommunications networks shall pass on such discounts to eligible schools and libraries and shall:

(1) Maintain records listing each eligible school and library and showing the basis for each eligibility determination;

(2) Maintain records demonstrating the discount amount to which each eligible school and library is entitled and the basis for such determination;

(3) Take reasonable steps to ensure that each eligible school or library receives a proportionate share of the shared services;

(4) Request that service providers apply the appropriate discount amounts on the portion of the supported services used by each school or library;

(5) Direct eligible schools and libraries to pay the discounted price; and

(6) Comply with the competitive bid requirements set forth in §54.503.

(b) Internet access and installation and maintenance of internal connections. State telecommunications networks either may secure discounts on Internet access and installation and maintenance of internal connections in the manner described in paragraph (a) of this section with regard to telecommunications, or shall be eligible, consistent with §54.502(a), to receive universal service support for providing such services to eligible schools, libraries, and consortia including those entities.

[63 FR 2131, Jan. 13, 1998; 63 FR 33586, June 19, 1998, as amended at75 FR 75415, Dec. 3, 2010]

§54.520   Children's Internet Protection Act certifications required from recipients of discounts under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries.

(a) Definitions.

(1) School. For the purposes of the certification requirements of this rule, school means school, school board, school district, local education agency or other authority responsible for administration of a school.

(2) Library. For the purposes of the certification requirements of this rule, library means library, library board or authority responsible for administration of a library.

(3) Billed entity. Billed entity is defined in §54.500. In the case of a consortium, the billed entity is the lead member of the consortium.

(4) Statutory definitions.

(i) The term “minor” means any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years.

(ii) The term “obscene” has the meaning given such term in 18 U.S.C. 1460.

(iii) The term “child pornography” has the meaning given such term in 18 U.S.C. 2256.

(iv) The term “harmful to minors” means any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that—

(A) Taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion;

(B) Depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals; and

(C) Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.

(v) The terms “sexual act” and “sexual contact” have the meanings given such terms in 18 U.S.C. 2246.

(vi) The term “technology protection measure” means a specific technology that blocks or filters Internet access to the material covered by a certification under paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) Who is required to make certifications? (1) A school or library that receives discounts for Internet access and internal connections services under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries, must make such certifications as described in paragraph (c) of this section. The certifications required and described in paragraph (c) of this section must be made in each funding year.

(2) Schools and libraries that only receive discounts for telecommunications services under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries are not subject to the requirements 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), but must indicate, pursuant to the certification requirements in paragraph (c) of this section, that they only receive discounts for telecommunications services.

(c) Certifications required under 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l)—(1) Schools. The billed entity for a school that receives discounts for Internet access or internal connections must certify on FCC Form 486 that an Internet safety policy is being enforced. If the school is an eligible member of a consortium but is not the billed entity for the consortium, the school must certify instead on FCC Form 479 (“Certification to Consortium Leader of Compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act”) that an Internet safety policy is being enforced.

(i) The Internet safety policy adopted and enforced pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 254(h) must include a technology protection measure that protects against Internet access by both adults and minors to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or, with respect to use of the computers by minors, harmful to minors. The school must enforce the operation of the technology protection measure during use of its computers with Internet access, although an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority under paragraph (a)(1) of this section may disable the technology protection measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose. This Internet safety policy must also include monitoring the online activities of minors. Beginning July 1, 2012, schools' Internet safety policies must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking Web sites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.

(ii) The Internet safety policy adopted and enforced pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 254(l) must address all of the following issues:

(A) Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet and World Wide Web,

(B) The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications,

(C) Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;

(D) Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and

(E) Measures designed to restrict minors' access to materials harmful to minors.

(iii) A school must satisfy its obligations to make certifications by making one of the following certifications required by paragraph (c)(1) of this section on FCC Form 486:

(A) The recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486 has (have) complied with the requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l).

(B) Pursuant to the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), the recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486, for whom this is the first funding year in the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries, is (are) undertaking such actions, including any necessary procurement procedures, to comply with the requirements of CIPA for the next funding year, but has (have) not completed all requirements of CIPA for this funding year.

(C) The Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), does not apply because the recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486 is (are) receiving discount services only for telecommunications services.

(2) Libraries. The billed entity for a library that receives discounts for Internet access and internal connections must certify, on FCC Form 486, that an Internet safety policy is being enforced. If the library is an eligible member of a consortium but is not the billed entity for the consortium, the library must instead certify on FCC Form 479 (“Certification to Consortium Leader of Compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act”) that an Internet safety policy is being enforced.

(i) The Internet safety policy adopted and enforced pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 254(h) must include a technology protection measure that protects against Internet access by both adults and minors to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or, with respect to use of the computers by minors, harmful to minors. The library must enforce the operation of the technology protection measure during use of its computers with Internet access, although an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority under paragraph (a)(2) of this section may disable the technology protection measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.

(ii) The Internet safety policy adopted and enforced pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 254(l) must address all of the following issues:

(A) Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet and World Wide Web;

(B) The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications;

(C) Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;

(D) Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and

(E) Measures designed to restrict minors' access to materials harmful to minors.

(iii) A library must satisfy its obligations to make certifications by making one of the following certifications required by paragraph (c)(2) of this section on FCC Form 486:

(A) The recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486 has (have) complied with the requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l).

(B) Pursuant to the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), the recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486, for whom this is the first funding year in the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries, is (are) undertaking such actions, including any necessary procurement procedures, to comply with the requirements of CIPA for the next funding year, but has (have) not completed all requirements of CIPA for this funding year.

(C) The Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), does not apply because the recipient(s) of service represented in the Funding Request Number(s) on this Form 486 is (are) receiving discount services only for telecommunications services.

(3) Certifications required from consortia members and billed entities for consortia. (i) The billed entity of a consortium, as defined in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, other than one requesting only discounts on telecommunications services for consortium members, must collect from the authority for each of its school and library members, one of the following signed certifications on FCC Form 479 (“Certification to Consortium Leader of Compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act”), which must be submitted to the billed entity consistent with paragraph (c)(1) or paragraph (c)(2) of this section:

(A) The recipient(s) of service under my administrative authority and represented in the Funding Request Number(s) for which you have requested or received Funding Commitments has (have) complied with the requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l).

(B) Pursuant to the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), the recipient(s) of service under my administrative authority and represented in the Funding Request Number(s) for which you have requested or received Funding Commitments, and for whom this is the first funding year in the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries, is (are) undertaking such actions, including any necessary procurement procedures, to comply with the requirements of CIPA for the next funding year, but has (have) not completed all requirements of CIPA for this funding year.

(C) The Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), does not apply because the recipient(s) of service under my administrative authority and represented in the Funding Request Number(s) for which you have requested or received Funding Commitments is (are) receiving discount services only for telecommunications services; and

(ii) The billed entity for a consortium, as defined in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, must make one of the following two certifications on FCC Form 486: “I certify as the Billed Entity for the consortium that I have collected duly completed and signed Forms 479 from all eligible members of the consortium.”; or I certify “as the Billed Entity for the consortium that the only services that I have been approved for discounts under the universal service support on behalf of eligible members of the consortium are telecommunications services, and therefore the requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h) and (l), do not apply.”; and

(iii) The billed entity for a consortium, as defined in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, who filed an FCC Form 471 as a “consortium application” and who is also a recipient of services as a member of that consortium must select one of the certifications under paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section on FCC Form 486.

(4) Local determination of content. A determination regarding matter inappropriate for minors shall be made by the school board, local educational agency, library, or other authority responsible for making the determination. No agency or instrumentality of the United States Government may establish criteria for making such determination; review the determination made by the certifying school, school board, school district, local educational agency, library, or other authority; or consider the criteria employed by the certifying school, school board, school district, local educational agency, library, or other authority in the administration of the schools and libraries universal service support mechanism.

(5) Availability for review. Each Internet safety policy adopted pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 254(l) shall be made available to the Commission, upon request from the Commission, by the school, school board, school district, local educational agency, library, or other authority responsible for adopting such Internet safety policy for purposes of the review of such Internet safety policy by the Commission.

(d) Failure to provide certifications—(1) Schools and libraries. A school or library that knowingly fails to submit certifications as required by this section, shall not be eligible for discount services under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries until such certifications are submitted.

(2) Consortia. A billed entity's knowing failure to collect the required certifications from its eligible school and library members or knowing failure to certify that it collected the required certifications shall render the entire consortium ineligible for discounts under the federal universal service support mechanism for school and libraries.

(3) Reestablishing eligibility. At any time, a school or library deemed ineligible for discount services under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries because of failure to submit certifications required by this section, may reestablish eligibility for discounts by providing the required certifications to the Administrator and the Commission.

(e) Failure to comply with the certifications—(1) Schools and libraries. A school or library that knowingly fails to ensure the use of computers in accordance with the certifications required by this section, must reimburse any funds and discounts received under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries for the period in which there was noncompliance.

(2) Consortia. In the case of consortium applications, the eligibility for discounts of consortium members who ensure the use of computers in accordance with the certification requirements of this section shall not be affected by the failure of other school or library consortium members to ensure the use of computers in accordance with such requirements.

(3) Reestablishing compliance. At any time, a school or library deemed ineligible for discounts under the federal universal service support mechanism for schools and libraries for failure to ensure the use of computers in accordance with the certification requirements of this section and that has been directed to reimburse the program for discounts received during the period of noncompliance, may reestablish compliance by ensuring the use of its computers in accordance with the certification requirements under this section. Upon submittal to the Commission of a certification or other appropriate evidence of such remedy, the school or library shall be eligible for discounts under the universal service mechanism.

(f) Waivers based on state or local procurement rules and regulations and competitive bidding requirements. Waivers shall be granted to schools and libraries when the authority responsible for making the certifications required by this section, cannot make the required certifications because its state or local procurement rules or regulations or competitive bidding requirements, prevent the making of the certification otherwise required. The waiver shall be granted upon the provision, by the authority responsible for making the certifications on behalf of schools or libraries, that the schools or libraries will be brought into compliance with the requirements of this section, for schools, before the start of the third program year after April 20, 2001 in which the school is applying for funds under this title, and, for libraries, before the start of Funding Year 2005 or the third program year after April 20, 2001, whichever is later.

(g) Funding year certification deadlines. For Funding Year 2003 and for subsequent funding years, billed entities shall provide one of the certifications required under paragraph (c)(1), (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section on an FCC Form 486 in accordance with the existing program guidelines established by the Administrator.

(h) Public notice; hearing or meeting. A school or library shall provide reasonable public notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposed Internet safety policy.

[66 FR 19396, Apr. 16, 2001; 66 FR 22133, May 3, 2001, as amended at 67 FR 50603, Aug. 5, 2002; 68 FR 47255, Aug. 8, 2003; 76 FR 56303, Sept. 13, 2011]

§54.522   [Reserved]

§54.523   Payment for the non-discount portion of supported services.

An eligible school, library, or consortium must pay the non-discount portion of services or products purchased with universal service discounts. An eligible school, library, or consortium may not receive rebates for services or products purchased with universal service discounts. For the purpose of this rule, the provision, by the provider of a supported service, of free services or products unrelated to the supported service or product constitutes a rebate of the non-discount portion of the supported services.

[69 FR 6192, Feb. 10, 2004]

Source: 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, unless otherwise noted.

§54.600   Terms and definitions.

As used in this subpart, the following terms shall be defined as follows:

(a) Funding year. A “funding year” for purposes of the funding cap shall be the period between July 1 of the current calendar year through June 30 of the next calendar year.

(b) Health care provider. A “health care provider” is any:

(1) Post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, including a teaching hospital or medical school;

(2) Community health center or health center providing health care to migrants;

(3) Local health department or agency;

(4) Community mental health center;

(5) Not-for-profit hospital;

(6) Rural health clinic;

(7) Skilled nursing facility (as defined in section 395i-3(a) of Title 42); or a

(8) Consortium of health care providers consisting of one or more entities described in paragraphs (b)(1) through (7) in this section.

(c) Off-site administrative office. An “off-site administrative office” is a facility that does not provide hands-on delivery of patient care but performs administrative support functions that are critical to the provision of clinical care by eligible health care providers.

(d) Off-site data center. An “off-site data center” is a facility that serves as a centralized repository for the storage, management, and dissemination of an eligible health care provider's computer systems, associated components, and data, including (but not limited to) electronic health records.

(e) Rural area. A “rural area” is an area that is entirely outside of a Core Based Statistical Area; is within a Core Based Statistical Area that does not have any Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater; or is in a Core Based Statistical Area that contains an Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater, but is within a specific census tract that itself does not contain any part of a Place or Urban Area with a population of greater than 25,000. For purposes of this rule, “Core Based Statistical Area,” “Urban Area,” and “Place” are as identified by the Census Bureau.

(f) Rural health care provider. A “rural health care provider” is an eligible health care provider site located in a rural area.

(g) Urbanized area. An “urbanized area” is an area with 50,000 or more people as designated by the Census Bureau based on the most recent decennial Census.

§54.601   Health care provider eligibility.

(a) Eligible health care providers. (1) Only an entity that is either a public or non-profit health care provider, as defined in this subpart, shall be eligible to receive support under this subpart.

(2) Each separate site or location of a health care provider shall be considered an individual health care provider for purposes of calculating and limiting support under this subpart.

(b) Determination of health care provider eligibility for the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. Health care providers in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program may certify to the eligibility of particular sites at any time prior to, or concurrently with, filing a request for services to initiate competitive bidding for the site. Applicants who utilize a competitive bidding exemption must provide eligibility information for the site to the Administrator prior to, or concurrently with, filing a request for funding for the site. Health care providers must also notify the Administrator within 30 days of a change in the health care provider's name, site location, contact information, or eligible entity type.

§54.602   Health care support mechanism.

(a) Telecommunications Program. Eligible rural health care providers may request support for the difference, if any, between the urban and rural rates for telecommunications services, subject to the provisions and limitations set forth in §§54.600 through 54.602 and 54.603 through 54.606. This support is referred to as the “Telecommunications Program.”

(b) Healthcare Connect Fund Program. Eligible health care providers may request support for eligible services, equipment, and infrastructure, subject to the provisions and limitations set forth in §§54.600 through 54.602 and 54.607 through 54.618. This support is referred to as the “Healthcare Connect Fund Program.”

(c) Allocation of discounts. An eligible health care provider that engages in both eligible and ineligible activities or that collocates with an ineligible entity shall allocate eligible and ineligible activities in order to receive prorated support for the eligible activities only. Health care providers shall choose a method of cost allocation that is based on objective criteria and reasonably reflects the eligible usage of the facilities.

(d) Health care purposes. Services for which eligible health care providers receive support from the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program must be reasonably related to the provision of health care services or instruction that the health care provider is legally authorized to provide under the law in the state in which such health care services or instruction are provided.

Telecommunications Program

§54.603   Consortia, telecommunications services, and existing contracts.

(a) Consortia. (1) Under the Telecommunications Program, an eligible health care provider may join a consortium with other eligible health care providers; with schools, libraries, and library consortia eligible under subpart F of this part; and with public sector (governmental) entities to order telecommunications services. With one exception, eligible health care providers participating in consortia with ineligible private sector members shall not be eligible for supported services under this subpart. A consortium may include ineligible private sector entities if such consortium is only receiving services at tariffed rates or at market rates from those providers who do not file tariffs.

(2) For consortia, universal service support under the Telecommunications Program shall apply only to the portion of eligible services used by an eligible health care provider.

(b) Telecommunications services. Any telecommunications service that is the subject of a properly completed bona fide request by a rural health care provider shall be eligible for universal service support. Upon submitting a bona fide request to a telecommunications carrier, each eligible rural health care provider is entitled to receive the most cost-effective, commercially-available telecommunications service, and a telecommunications service carrier that is eligible for support under the Telecommunications Program shall provide such service at the urban rate, as defined in §54.604.

(c) Existing contracts. A signed contract for services eligible for Telecommunications Program support pursuant to this subpart between an eligible health care provider, as defined under §54.600, and a service provider shall be exempt from the competitive bid requirements as set forth in §54.622(i).

§54.604   Determining the urban rate.

(a) Urban rate. An applicant shall use the applicable urban rate currently available in the Administrator's database when requesting funding. The “urban rate” shall be the median of all available rates identified by the Administrator for functionally similar services in all urbanized areas of the state where the health care provider is located to the extent that urbanized area falls within the state.

(b) Database. The Administrator shall create and maintain on its website a database that lists, by state, the eligible Telecommunications Program services and the related urban rate.

§54.605   Determining the rural rate.

(a) Rural rate. An applicant shall use the lower of the applicable “rural rate” currently available in the Administrator's database or the rural rate included in the service agreement that the health care provider enters into with the service provider when requesting funding.

(1) For purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, The rural rate will be determined using the following tiers in which a health care provider is located:

(i) Extremely Rural. Areas entirely outside of a Core Based Statistical Area.

(ii) Rural. Areas within a Core Based Statistical Area that does not have an Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater.

(iii) Less rural. Areas in a Core Based Statistical Area that contains an Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater, but are within a specific census tract that itself does not contain any part of a Place or Urban Area with a population of greater than 25,000.

(iv) Frontier. For health care providers located in Alaska only, areas outside of a Core Based Statistical Area that are inaccessible by road as determined by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs. The “rural rate” shall be the median of all available rates for the same or functionally similar service offered within the rural tier, applicable to the health care provider's location within the state. The Administrator shall not include any rates reduced by universal service support mechanisms. The “rural rate” shall be used as described in this subpart to determine the credit or reimbursement due to a telecommunications carrier that provides eligible telecommunications services to eligible health care providers.

(b) Database. The Administrator shall create and maintain on its website a database that lists, by state, the eligible Telecommunications Program services and the related rural rate for each such service and for each rural tier.

(c) Request for waiver. A petition for a waiver of the “rural rate,” as described in paragraph (a) in this section, may be granted if the service provider demonstrates that application of the rural rate published by the Administrator would result in a projected rate of return on the net investment in the assets used to provide the rural health care service that is less than the Commission-prescribed rate of return for incumbent rate of return local exchange carriers (LECs). All waiver requests must articulate specific facts that demonstrate that “good cause” exists to grant the requested waiver and that granting the requested waiver would be in the public interest. To satisfy this standard, the waiver request must be substantiated through documentary evidence as stated in the following. A waiver request will not be entertained if it does not also set forth a rural rate that the service provider demonstrates will permit it to obtain no more than the current Commission prescribed rate of return authorized for incumbent rate of return local exchange carriers.

(1) For purposes of paragraph (c), petitions seeking a waiver must include all financial data and other information to verify the service provider's assertions, including, at a minimum, the following information:

(i) Company-wide and rural health care service gross investment, accumulated depreciation, deferred state and federal income taxes, and net investment; capital costs by category expressed as annual figures (e.g., depreciation expense, state and federal income tax expense, return on net investment); operating expenses by category (e.g., maintenance expense, administrative and other overhead expenses, and tax expense other than income tax expense); the applicable state and federal income tax rates; fixed charges (e.g., interest expense); and any income tax adjustments;

(ii) An explanation and a set of detailed spreadsheets showing the direct assignment of costs to the rural health care service and how company-wide common costs are allocated among the company's services, including the rural health care service, and the result of these direct assignments and allocations as necessary to develop a rate for the rural health care service;

(iii) The company-wide and rural health care service costs for the most recent calendar year for which full-time actual, historical cost data are available;

(iv) Projections of the company-wide and rural health care service costs for the funding year in question and an explanation of those projections;

(v) Actual monthly demand data for the rural health care service for the most recent three calendar years (if applicable);

(vi) Projections of the monthly demand for the rural health care service for the funding year in question, and the data and details on the methodology used to make those projections;

(vii) The annual revenue requirement (capital costs and operating expenses expressed as an annual number plus a return on net investment) and the rate for the funded service (annual revenue requirement divided by annual demand divided by twelve equals the monthly rate for the service), assuming one rate element for the service), based on the projected rural health care service costs and demands;

(viii) Audited financial statements and notes to the financial statements, if available, and otherwise unaudited financial statements for the most recent three fiscal years, specifically, the cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheets. Such statements shall include information regarding costs and revenues associated with, or used as a starting point to develop, the rural health care service rate; and

(ix) Density characteristics of the rural area or other relevant geographical areas including square miles, road miles, mountains, bodies of water, lack of roads, remoteness, challenges and costs associated with transporting fuel, satellite and backhaul availability, extreme weather conditions, challenging topography, short construction season or any other characteristics that contribute to the high cost of servicing the health care providers.

§54.606   Calculating support.

(a) The amount of universal service support provided for an eligible service to be funded from the Telecommunications program shall be the difference, if any, between the urban rate and the rural rate charged for the services, as defined in this section. In addition, all reasonable charges that are incurred by taking such services, such as state and federal taxes, shall be eligible for universal service support. Charges for termination liability, penalty surcharges, and other charges not included in the cost of taking such service shall not be covered by the universal service support mechanisms.

(b) The universal service support mechanisms shall provide support for intrastate telecommunications services, as set forth in §54.101(a), provided to rural health care providers as well as interstate telecommunications services.

(c) Mobile rural health care providers—(1) Calculation of support. The support amount allowed under the Telecommunications Program for satellite services provided to mobile rural health care providers is calculated by comparing the rate for the satellite service to the rate for an urban wireline service with a similar bandwidth. Support for satellite services shall not be capped at an amount of a functionally similar wireline alternative. Where the mobile rural health care provider provides service in more than one state, the calculation shall be based on the urban areas in each state, proportional to the number of locations served in each state.

(2) Documentation of support. (i) Mobile rural health care providers shall provide to the Administrator documentation of the price of bandwidth equivalent wireline services in the urban area in the state or states where the service is provided. Mobile rural health care providers shall provide to the Administrator the number of sites the mobile health care provider will serve during the funding year.

(ii) Where a mobile rural health care provider serves less than eight different sites per year, the mobile rural health care provider shall provide to the Administrator documentation of the price of bandwidth equivalent wireline services. In such case, the Administrator shall determine on a case-by-case basis whether the telecommunications service selected by the mobile rural health care provider is the most cost-effective option. Where a mobile rural health care provider seeks a more expensive satellite-based service when a less expensive wireline alternative is most cost-effective, the mobile rural health care provider shall be responsible for the additional cost.

Healthcare Connect Fund Program

§54.607   Eligible recipients.

(a) Rural health care provider site—individual and consortium. Under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, an eligible rural health care provider may receive universal service support by applying individually or through a consortium. For purposes of the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, a “consortium” is a group of two or more health care provider sites that request support through a single application. Consortia may include health care providers who are not eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, but such health care providers cannot receive support for their expenses and must participate pursuant to the cost allocation guidelines in §54.617(d).

(b) Limitation on participation of non-rural health care provider sites in a consortium. An eligible non-rural health care provider site may receive universal service support only as part of a consortium that includes more than 50 percent eligible rural health care provider sites. The majority-rural consortia percentage requirement will increase by 5 percent for the following funding year (up to a maximum of 75 percent) if the Commission must prioritize funding for a given year because Rural Health Care Program demand exceeds the funding cap.

(c) Limitation on large non-rural hospitals. Each eligible non-rural public or non-profit hospital site with 400 or more licensed patient beds may receive no more than $30,000 per year in Healthcare Connect Fund Program support for eligible recurring charges and no more than $70,000 in Healthcare Connect Fund Program support every five years for eligible nonrecurring charges, exclusive in both cases of costs shared by the network.

§54.608   Eligible service providers.

For purposes of the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, eligible service providers shall include any provider of equipment, facilities, or services that is eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

§54.609   Designation of Consortium Leader.

(a) Identifying a Consortium Leader. Each consortium seeking support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program must identify an entity or organization that will lead the consortium (the “Consortium Leader”).

(b) Consortium Leader eligibility. The Consortium Leader may be the consortium itself (if it is a distinct legal entity); an eligible health care provider participating in the consortium; or a state organization, public sector (governmental) entity (including a Tribal government entity), or non-profit entity that is ineligible for Healthcare Connect Fund Program support. Ineligible state organizations, public sector entities, or non-profit entities may serve as Consortium Leaders or provide consulting assistance to consortia only if they do not participate as potential service providers during the competitive bidding process. An ineligible entity that serves as the Consortium Leader must pass on the full value of any discounts, funding, or other program benefits secured to the consortium members that are eligible health care providers.

(c) Consortium Leader responsibilities. The Consortium Leader's responsibilities include the following:

(1) Legal and financial responsibility for supported activities. The Consortium Leader is the legally and financially responsible entity for the activities supported by the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. By default, the Consortium Leader is the responsible entity if audits or other investigations by Administrator or the Commission reveal violations of the Act or Commission rules, with individual consortium members being jointly and severally liable if the Consortium Leader dissolves, files for bankruptcy, or otherwise fails to meet its obligations. Except for the responsibilities specifically described in paragraphs (c)(2) through (6) in this section, consortia may allocate legal and financial responsibility as they see fit, provided that this allocation is memorialized in a formal written agreement between the affected parties (i.e., the Consortium Leader, and the consortium as a whole and/or its individual members), and the written agreement is submitted to the Administrator for approval with, or prior to, the request for services. Any such agreement must clearly identify the party(ies) responsible for repayment if the Administrator, at a later date, seeks to recover disbursements of support to the consortium due to violations of program rules.

(2) Point of contact for the FCC and Administrator. The Consortium Leader is responsible for designating an individual who will be the “Project Coordinator” and serve as the point of contact with the Commission and the Administrator for all matters related to the consortium. The Consortium Leader is responsible for responding to Commission and Administrator inquiries on behalf of the consortium members throughout the application, funding, invoicing, and post-invoicing period.

(3) Typical applicant functions, including forms and certifications. The Consortium Leader is responsible for submitting program forms and required documentation and ensuring that all information and certifications submitted are true and correct. The Consortium Leader must also collect and retain a Letter of Agency (LOA) from each member, pursuant to §54.610.

(4) Competitive bidding and cost allocation. The Consortium Leader is responsible for ensuring that the competitive bidding process is fair and open and otherwise complies with Commission requirements. If costs are shared by both eligible and ineligible entities, the Consortium Leader must ensure that costs are allocated in a manner that ensures that only eligible entities receive the benefit of program discounts.

(5) Invoicing. The Consortium Leader is responsible for notifying the Administrator when supported services have commenced and for submitting invoices to the Administrator.

(6) Recordkeeping, site visits, and audits. The Consortium Leader is also responsible for compliance with the Commission's recordkeeping requirements and for coordinating site visits and audits for all consortium members.

§54.610   Letters of agency (LOA).

(a) Authorizations. Under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, the Consortium Leader must obtain the following authorizations:

(1) Prior to the submission of the request for services, the Consortium Leader must obtain authorization, the necessary certifications, and any supporting documentation from each consortium member to permit the Consortium Leader to submit the request for services and prepare and post the request for proposal on behalf of the member.

(2) Prior to the submission of the funding request, the Consortium Leader must secure authorization, the necessary certifications, and any supporting documentation from each consortium member to permit the Consortium Leader to submit the funding request and manage invoicing and payments on behalf of the member.

(b) Optional two-step process. The Consortium Leader may secure both required authorizations from each consortium member in either a single LOA or in two separate LOAs.

(c) Required information in a LOA. (1) An LOA must include, at a minimum, the name of the entity filing the application (i.e., lead applicant or Consortium Leader); the name of the entity authorizing the filing of the application (i.e., the participating health care provider/consortium member); the physical location of the health care provider/consortium member site(s); the relationship of each site seeking support to the lead entity filing the application; the specific timeframe the LOA covers; the signature, title and contact information (including phone number, mailing address, and email address) of an official who is authorized to act on behalf of the health care provider/consortium member; the signature date; and the type of services covered by the LOA.

(2) For health care providers located on Tribal lands, if the health care facility is a contract facility that is run solely by the tribe, the appropriate Tribal leader, such as the Tribal chairperson, president, or governor, shall also sign the LOA, unless the health care responsibilities have been duly delegated to another Tribal government representative.

§54.611   Health care provider contribution.

(a) Health care provider contribution. All health care providers receiving support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program shall receive a 65 percent discount on the cost of eligible expenses and shall be required to contribute 35 percent of the total cost of all eligible expenses.

(b) Limits on eligible sources of health care provider contribution. Only funds from eligible sources may be applied toward the health care provider's required contribution.

(1) Eligible sources include the applicant or eligible health care provider participants; state grants, appropriations, or other sources of state funding; federal grants, loans, appropriations except for other federal universal service funding, or other sources of federal funding; Tribal government funding; and other grants, including private grants.

(2) Ineligible sources include (but are not limited to) in-kind or implied contributions from health care providers; direct payments from service providers, including contractors and consultants to such entities; and for-profit entities.

(c) Disclosure of health care provider contribution source. Prior to receiving support, applicants are required to identify with specificity their sources of funding for their contribution of eligible expenses.

(d) Future revenues from excess capacity as source of health care provider contribution. A consortium applicant that receives support for participant-owned network facilities under §54.614 may use future revenues from excess capacity as a source for the required health care provider contribution, subject to the following limitations:

(1) The consortium's selection criteria and evaluation for “cost-effectiveness,” pursuant to §54.622(g)(1), cannot provide a preference to bidders that offer to construct excess capacity;

(2) The applicant must pay the full amount of the additional costs for excess capacity facilities that will not be part of the supported health care network;

(3) The additional cost of constructing excess capacity facilities may not count toward a health care provider's required contribution;

(4) The inclusion of excess capacity facilities cannot increase the funded cost of the dedicated health care network in any way;

(5) An eligible health care provider (typically the consortium, although it may be an individual health care provider participating in the consortium) must retain ownership of the excess capacity facilities. It may make the facilities available to third parties only under an indefeasible right of use (IRU) or lease arrangement. The lease or IRU between the participant and the third party must be an arm's length transaction. To ensure that this is an arm's length transaction, neither the service provider that installs the excess capacity facilities nor its affiliate is eligible to enter into an IRU or lease with the participant;

(6) Any amount prepaid for use of the excess capacity facilities (IRU or lease) must be placed in an escrow account. The participant can then use the escrow account as an eligible source of funds for the participant's 35 percent contribution to the project; and

(7) All revenues from use of the excess capacity facilities by the third party must be used for the health care provider contribution or for the sustainability of the health care network supported by the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. Network costs that may be funded with any additional revenues that remain will include: Administration costs, equipment, software, legal fees, or other costs not covered by the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, as long as they are relevant to sustaining the network.

§54.612   Eligible services.

(a) Eligible services. Subject to the provisions of §§54.600 through 54.602 and 54.607 through 54.633, eligible health care providers may request support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program for any advanced telecommunications or information service that enables health care providers to post their own data, interact with stored data, generate new data, or communicate, by providing connectivity over private dedicated networks or the public internet for the provision of health information technology.

(b) Eligibility of dark fiber. A consortium of eligible health care providers may receive support for “dark” fiber where the customer, not the service provider, provides the modulating electronics, subject to the following limitations:

(1) Support for recurring charges associated with dark fiber is only available once the dark fiber is “lit” and actually being used by the health care provider. Support for non-recurring charges for dark fiber is only available for fiber lit within the same funding year, but applicants may receive up to a one-year extension to light fiber, consistent with §54.626(b), if they provide documentation to the Administrator that construction was unavoidably delayed due to weather or other reasons.

(2) Requests for proposals that solicit dark fiber solutions must also solicit proposals to provide the needed services over lit fiber over a time period comparable to the duration of the dark fiber lease or indefeasible right of use.

(3) If an applicant intends to request support for equipment and maintenance costs associated with lighting and operating dark fiber, it must include such elements in the same request for proposal as the dark fiber so that the Administrator can review all costs associated with the fiber when determining whether the applicant chose the most cost-effective bid.

(c) Dark and lit fiber maintenance costs. (1) Both individual and consortium applicants may receive support for recurring maintenance costs associated with leases of dark or lit fiber.

(2) Consortium applicants may receive support for upfront payments for maintenance costs associated with leases of dark or lit fiber, subject to the limitations in §54.616.

(d) Reasonable and customary installation charges. Eligible health care providers may obtain support for reasonable and customary installation charges for eligible services, up to an undiscounted cost of $5,000 per eligible site.

(e) Upfront charges for service provider deployment of new or upgraded facilities. (1) Participants may obtain support for upfront charges for service provider deployment of new or upgraded facilities to serve eligible sites.

(2) Support is available to extend service provider deployment of facilities up to the “demarcation point,” which is the boundary between facilities owned or controlled by the service provider, and facilities owned or controlled by the customer.

§54.613   Eligible equipment.

(a) Both individual and consortium applicants may receive support for network equipment necessary to make functional an eligible service supported under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

(b) Consortium applicants may also receive support for network equipment necessary to manage, control, or maintain an eligible service or a dedicated health care broadband network. Support for network equipment is not available for networks that are not dedicated to health care.

(c) Network equipment eligible for support includes the following:

(1) Equipment that terminates a carrier's or other provider's transmission facility and any router/switch that is directly connected to either the facility or the terminating equipment. This includes equipment required to light dark fiber, or equipment necessary to connect dedicated health care broadband networks or individual health care providers to middle mile or backbone networks;

(2) Computers, including servers, and related hardware (e.g., printers, scanners, laptops) that are used exclusively for network management;

(3) Software used for network management, maintenance, or other network operations, and development of software that supports network management, maintenance, and other network operations;

(4) Costs of engineering, furnishing (i.e., as delivered from the manufacturer), and installing network equipment; and

(5) Equipment that is a necessary part of health care provider-owned network facilities.

(d) Additional limitations: Support for network equipment is limited to equipment:

(1) Purchased or leased by a Consortium Leader or eligible health care provider; and

(2) Used for health care purposes.

§54.614   Eligible participant-constructed and owned network facilities for consortium applicants.

(a) Subject to the funding limitations of this subsection and the following restrictions, consortium applicants may receive support for network facilities that will be constructed and owned by the consortium (if the consortium is an eligible health care provider) or eligible health care providers within the consortium. Subject to the funding limitations under §§54.616 and 54.619 and the following restrictions, consortium applicants may receive support for network facilities that will be constructed and owned by the consortium (if the consortium is an eligible health care provider) or eligible health care providers within the consortium.

(1) Consortia seeking support to construct and own network facilities are required to solicit bids for both:

(i) Services provided over third-party networks; and

(ii) Construction of participant-owned network facilities, in the same request for proposals. Requests for proposals must provide sufficient detail so that cost-effectiveness can be evaluated over the useful life of the proposed network facility to be constructed.

(2) Support for participant-constructed and owned network facilities is only available where the consortium demonstrates that constructing its own network facilities is the most cost-effective option after competitive bidding, pursuant to §54.622(g)(1).

(b) [Reserved]

§54.615   Off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.

(a) The connections and network equipment associated with off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices used by eligible health care providers for their health care purposes are eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, subject to the conditions and restrictions set forth in paragraph (b) in this section.

(b) Conditions and restrictions. The following conditions and restrictions apply to support provided under this section.

(1) Connections eligible for support are only those that are between:

(i) Eligible health care provider sites and off-site data centers or off-site administrative offices;

(ii) Two off-site data centers;

(iii) Two off-site administrative offices;

(iv) An off-site data center and the public internet or another network;

(v) An off-site administrative office and the public internet or another network; or

(vi) An off-site administrative office and an off-site data center.

(2) The supported connections and network equipment must be used solely for health care purposes.

(3) The supported connections and network equipment must be purchased by an eligible health care provider or a public or non-profit health care system that owns and operates eligible health care provider sites.

(4) If traffic associated with one or more ineligible health care provider sites is carried by the supported connection and/or network equipment, the ineligible health care provider sites must allocate the cost of that connection and/or equipment between eligible and ineligible sites, consistent with the “fair share” principles set forth in §54.617(d)(1).

§54.616   Upfront payments.

(a) Upfront payments include all non-recurring costs for services, equipment, or facilities, other than reasonable and customary installation charges of up to $5,000.

(b) The following limitations apply to all upfront payments:

(1) Upfront payments associated with services providing a bandwidth of less than 1.5 Mbps (symmetrical) are not eligible for support; and

(2) Only consortium applicants are eligible for support for upfront payments.

(c) The following limitations apply if a consortium makes a request for support for upfront payments that exceeds, on average, $50,000 per eligible site in the consortium:

(1) The support for the upfront payments must be prorated over at least three years; and

(2) The upfront payments must be part of a multi-year contract.

§54.617   Ineligible expenses.

(a) Equipment or services not directly associated with eligible services. Expenses associated with equipment or services that are not necessary to make an eligible service functional, or to manage, control, or maintain an eligible service or a dedicated health care broadband network are ineligible for support. For purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, examples of ineligible expenses include:

(1) Costs associated with general computing, software, applications, and internet content development are not supported, including the following:

(i) Computers, including servers, and related hardware (e.g., printers, scanners, laptops), unless used exclusively for network management, maintenance, or other network operations;

(ii) End user wireless devices, such as smartphones and tablets;

(iii) Software, unless used for network management, maintenance, or other network operations;

(iv) Software development (excluding development of software that supports network management, maintenance, and other network operations);

(v) Helpdesk equipment and related software, or services, unless used exclusively in support of eligible services or equipment;

(vi) Web server hosting;

(vii) website portal development;

(viii) Video/audio/web conferencing equipment or services; and

(ix) Continuous power source.

(2) Costs associated with medical equipment (hardware and software), and other general health care provider expenses are not supported, including the following:

(i) Clinical or medical equipment;

(ii) Telemedicine equipment, applications, and software;

(iii) Training for use of telemedicine equipment;

(iv) Electronic medical records systems; and

(v) Electronic records management and expenses.

(b) Inside wiring/internal connections. Expenses associated with inside wiring or internal connections are ineligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

(c) Administrative expenses. Administrative expenses are not eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. For purposes of paragraph (c) of this section, ineligible administrative expenses include, but are not limited to, the following expenses:

(1) Personnel costs (including salaries and fringe benefits), except for personnel expenses in a consortium application that directly relate to designing, engineering, installing, constructing, and managing a dedicated broadband network. Ineligible costs of this category include, for example, personnel to perform program management and coordination, program administration, and marketing;

(2) Travel costs, except for travel costs that are reasonable and necessary for network design or deployment and that are specifically identified and justified as part of a competitive bid for a construction project;

(3) Legal costs;

(4) Training, except for basic training or instruction directly related to and required for broadband network installation and associated network operations;

(5) Program administration or technical coordination (e.g., preparing application materials, obtaining letters of agency, preparing requests for proposals, negotiating with service providers, reviewing bids, and working with the Administrator) that involves anything other than the design, engineering, operations, installation, or construction of the network;

(6) Administration and marketing costs (e.g., administrative costs; supplies and materials, except as part of network installation/construction; marketing studies, marketing activities, or outreach to potential network members; and evaluation and feedback studies);

(7) Billing expenses (e.g., expenses that service providers may charge for allocating costs to each health care provider in a network);

(8) Helpdesk expenses (e.g., equipment and related software, or services); and

(9) Technical support services that provide more than basic maintenance.

(d) Cost allocation for ineligible sites, services, or equipment. (1) Ineligible sites. Eligible health care provider sites may share expenses with ineligible sites, as long as the ineligible sites pay their fair share of the expenses. An applicant may seek support for only the portion of a shared eligible expense attributable to eligible health care provider sites. To receive support, the applicant must ensure that ineligible sites pay their fair share of the expense. The fair share is determined as follows:

(i) If the service provider charges a separate and independent price for each site, an ineligible site must pay the full undiscounted price.

(ii) If there is no separate and independent price for each site, the applicant must prorate the undiscounted price for the “shared” service, equipment, or facility between eligible and ineligible sites on a proportional fully-distributed basis. Applicants must make this cost allocation using a method that is based on objective criteria and reasonably reflects the eligible usage of the shared service, equipment, or facility. The applicant bears the burden of demonstrating the reasonableness of the allocation method chosen.

(2) Ineligible components of a single service or piece of equipment. Applicants seeking support for a service or piece of equipment that includes an ineligible component must explicitly request in their requests for proposals that service providers include pricing for a comparable service or piece of equipment that is comprised of only eligible components. If the selected service provider also submits a price for the eligible component on a stand-alone basis, the support amount is calculated based on the stand-alone price of the eligible component. If the service provider does not offer the eligible component on a stand-alone basis, the full price of the entire service or piece of equipment must be taken into account, without regard to the value of the ineligible components, when determining the most cost-effective bid.

(3) Written description. Applicants must submit a written description of their allocation method(s) to the Administrator with their funding requests.

(4) Written agreement. If ineligible entities participate in a network, the allocation method must be memorialized in writing, such as a formal agreement among network members, a master services contract, or for smaller consortia, a letter signed and dated by all (or each) ineligible entity and the Consortium Leader.

§54.618   Data collection and reporting.

(a) Each applicant must file an annual report with the Administrator on or before September 30 for the preceding funding year, with the information and in the form specified by the Wireline Competition Bureau.

(b) Each applicant must file an annual report for each funding year in which it receives support from the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

(c) For consortia that receive large upfront payments, the reporting requirement extends for the life of the supported facility.

General Provisions

§54.619   Cap.

(a) Amount of the annual cap. The aggregate annual cap on federal universal service support for health care providers shall be $571 million per funding year, of which up to $150 million per funding year will be available to support upfront payments and multi-year commitments under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

(1) Inflation increase. In funding year 2018 and subsequent funding years, the $571 million cap on federal universal support in the Rural Health Care Program shall be increased annually to take into account increases in the rate of inflation as calculated in paragraph (a)(2) in this section. In funding year 2020 and subsequent funding years, the $150 million cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program shall also be increased annually to take into account increases in the rate of inflation as calculated in paragraph (a)(2) in this section.

(2) Increase calculation. To measure increases in the rate of inflation for the purposes of paragraph (a)(1) in this section, the Commission shall use the Gross Domestic Product Chain-type Price Index (GDP-CPI). To compute the annual increase as required by paragraph (a)(1) in this section, the percentage increase in the GDP-CPI from the previous year will be used. For instance, the annual increase in the GDP-CPI from 2017 to 2018 would be used for the 2018 funding year. The increase shall be rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent by rounding 0.05 percent and above to the next higher 0.1 percent. This percentage increase shall be added to the amount of the annual Rural Health Care Program funding cap and the internal cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program from the previous funding year. If the yearly average GDP-CPI decreases or stays the same, the annual Rural Health Care Program funding cap and the internal cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program shall remain the same as the previous year.

(3) Public notice. After calculating the annual Rural Health Care Program funding cap and the internal cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program based on the GDP-CPI, the Wireline Competition Bureau shall publish a public notice in the Federal Register within 60 days announcing any increase of the annual funding cap based on the rate of inflation.

(4) Amount of unused funds. All unused collected funds shall be carried forward into subsequent funding years for use in the Rural Health Care Program in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap. The Administrator, on a quarterly basis, shall report to the Commission on unused Rural Health Care Program funding from prior years.

(5) Application of unused funds. On an annual basis, in the second quarter of each calendar year, all unused collected funds from prior years shall be available for use in the next full funding year of the Rural Health Care Program notwithstanding the annual cap as described in paragraph (a) in this section. The Wireline Competition Bureau, in consultation with the Office of the Managing Director, shall determine the proportion of unused funding for use in the Rural Health Care Program in accordance with the public interest to either satisfy demand notwithstanding the annual cap, reduce collections for the Rural Health Care Program, or to hold in reserve to address contingencies for subsequent funding years. The Wireline Competition Bureau shall direct the Administrator to carry out the necessary actions for the use of available funds consistent with the direction specified in this section.

(b) [Reserved]

§54.620   Annual filing requirements and commitments.

(a) Annual filing requirement. Health care providers seeking support under the RHC Program shall file new funding requests for each funding year consistent with the filing periods established under this subpart, except for health care providers who have received a multi-year funding commitment in this section.

(b) Long-term contracts. If health care providers enter into long-term contracts for eligible services, the Administrator shall only commit funds to cover the portion of such a long-term contract scheduled to be delivered during the funding year for which universal service support is sought, except for multi-year funding commitments as described in this section.

(c) Multi-year commitments under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. Participants in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program are permitted to enter into multi-year contracts for eligible expenses and may receive funding commitments from the Administrator for a period that covers up to three years of funding. If a long-term contract covers a period of more than three years, the applicant may also have the contract designated as “evergreen” under §54.622(i)(3), which will allow the applicant to re-apply for funding under the contract after three years without having to undergo additional competitive bidding.

§54.621   Filing window for requests and prioritization of support.

(a) Filing window for requests. (1) The Administrator shall open an initial application filing window with an end date no later than 90 days prior to the start of the funding year (i.e., no later than April 1). Prior to announcing the initial opening and closing dates, the Administrator shall seek the approval of the proposed dates from the Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau.

(2) The Administrator, after consultation with the Wireline Competition Bureau, may implement such additional filing periods as it deems necessary. To the extent that the Administrator opens an additional filing period, it shall provide notice and include in that notice or soon thereafter the amount of remaining available funding.

(3) The Administrator shall treat all health care providers filing an application within a filing window period as if their applications were simultaneously received. All funding requests submitted outside of a filing window will not be accepted unless and until the Administrator opens another filing window.

(b) Prioritization of support. The Administrator shall act in accordance with this section when a filing window period for the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, as described in paragraph (a) in this section, is in effect. When a filing period described in paragraph (a) in this section closes, the Administrator shall calculate the total demand for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program support submitted by all applicants during the filing window period. If the total demand during the filing window period exceeds the total remaining support available for the funding year, then the Administrator shall distribute the available funds consistent with the following priority schedule:

Table 1 to Paragraph (b)—Prioritization Schedule

Health care provider site is located in:In a medically
underserved
area/population (MUA/P)
Not in MUA/P
Extremely Rural Tier (counties entirely outside of a Core Based Statistical Area)Priority 1Priority 4.
Rural Tier (census tracts within a Core Based Statistical Area that does not have an urban area or urban cluster with a population equal to or greater than 25,000)Priority 2Priority 5.
Less Rural Tier (census tracts within a Core Based Statistical Area with an urban area or urban cluster with a population equal to or greater than 25,000, but where the census tract does not contain any part of an urban area or urban cluster with population equal to or greater than 25,000)Priority 3Priority 6.
Non-Rural Tier (all other non-rural areas)Priority 7Priority 8.

(1) Application of prioritization schedule. The Administrator shall fully fund all eligible requests falling under the first prioritization category before funding requests in the next lower prioritization category. The Administrator shall continue to process all funding requests by prioritization category until there are no available funds remaining. If there is insufficient funding to fully fund all requests in a particular prioritization category, then the Administrator will pro-rate the available funding among all eligible requests in that prioritization category only pursuant to the proration process described in paragraph (b)(2) in this section.

(2) Pro-rata reductions. The Administrator shall act in accordance with this section when a filing window period for the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, as described in paragraph (a) in this section, is in effect. When a filing window period described in paragraph (a) in this section closes, the Administrator shall calculate the total demand for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program support submitted by all applicants during the filing window period. If the total demand during a filing window period exceeds the total remaining support available for the funding year, the Administrator shall take the following steps:

(i) The Administrator shall divide the total remaining funds available for the funding year by the demand within the specific prioritization category to produce a pro-rata factor;

(ii) The Administrator shall multiply the pro-rata factor by the total dollar amount requested by each applicant in the prioritization category; and

(iii) The Administrator shall commit funds to each applicant for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program support consistent with this calculation.

§54.622   Competitive bidding requirements and exemptions.

(a) Competitive bidding requirement. All applicants are required to engage in a competitive bidding process for supported services, facilities, or equipment, as applicable, consistent with the requirements set forth in this section and any additional applicable state, Tribal, local, or other procurement requirements, unless they qualify for an exemption listed in paragraph (j) in this section. In addition, applicants may engage in competitive bidding even if they qualify for an exemption. Applicants who utilize a competitive bidding exemption may proceed directly to filing a funding request as described in §54.623.

(b) Fair and open process. (1) Applicants participating in the Telecommunications Program or Healthcare Connect Fund Program must conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process. The following actions are necessary to satisfy the “fair and open” competitive standard in the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program:

(i) All potential bidders and service providers must have access to the same information and must be treated in the same manner throughout the procurement process.

(ii) Service providers who intend to bid on supported services many not simultaneously help the applicant complete its request for proposal (RFP) or Request for Services form.

(iii) Service providers who have submitted a bid to provide supported services, equipment, or facilities to a health care provider may not simultaneously help the health care provider evaluate submitted bids or choose a winning bid.

(iv) Applicants must respond to all service providers that have submitted questions or proposals during the competitive bidding process.

(v) All applicants and service providers must comply with any applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement laws, in addition to the Commission's competitive bidding requirements. The competitive bidding requirements in this section are not intended to preempt such state, Tribal, or local requirements.

(c) Selecting a cost-effective service. In selecting a provider of eligible services, the applicant shall carefully consider all bids submitted and must select the most cost-effective means of meeting its specific health care needs. “Cost-effective” is defined as the method that costs the least after consideration of the features, quality of transmission, reliability, and other factors that the health care provider deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services. In the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, when choosing the most “cost-effective” bid, price must be a primary factor, but need not be the only primary factor. A non-price factor may receive an equal weight to price, but may not receive a greater weight than price.

(d) Bid evaluation criteria. Applicants must develop weighted evaluation criteria (e.g., a scoring matrix) that demonstrates how the applicant will choose the most cost-effective bid before submitting its request for services. The applicant must specify on its bid evaluation worksheet and/or scoring matrix the requested services for which it seeks bids, the information provided to bidders to allow bidders to reasonably determine the needs of the applicant, its minimum requirements for the developed weighted evaluation criteria, and each service provider's proposed service levels for the criteria. The applicant must also specify the disqualification factors, if any, that it will use to remove bids or bidders from further consideration. After reviewing the bid submissions and identifying the bids that satisfy the applicant's specific needs, the applicant must then select the service provider that offers the most cost-effective service.

(e) Request for Services. Applicants must submit the following documents to the Administrator in order to initiate competitive bidding:

(1) Request for Services, including certifications. The applicant must submit a Request for Services and make the following certifications as part of its Request for Services:

(i) The health care provider seeking supported services is a public or nonprofit entity that falls within one of the seven categories set forth in the definition of health care provider, listed in §54.600;

(ii) The health care provider seeking supported services is physically located in a rural area as defined in §54.600, or is a member of a Healthcare Connect Fund Program consortium which satisfies the rural health care provider composition requirements set forth in §54.607(b);

(iii) The person signing the application is authorized to submit the application on behalf of the health care provider or consortium applicant;

(iv) The person signing the application has examined the Request for Services and all attachments, and to the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief, all statements contained in the request are true;

(v) The applicant has complied with any applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules;

(vi) All requested Rural Health Care Program support will be used solely for purposes reasonably related to the provision of health care service or instruction that the health care provider is legally authorized to provide under the law of the state in which the services are provided;

(vii) The supported services will not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value;

(viii) The applicant satisfies all of the requirements under section 254 of the Act and applicable Commission rules; and

(ix) The applicant has reviewed all applicable requirements for the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, as applicable, and will comply with those requirements.

(2) Aggregated purchase details. If the service or services are being purchased as part of an aggregated purchase with other entities or individuals, the full details of any such arrangement, including the identities of all co-purchasers and the portion of the service or services being purchased by the health care provider, must be submitted.

(3) Bid evaluation criteria. Requirements for bid evaluation criteria are described in paragraph (d) in this section and must be included with the applicant's Request for Services.

(4) Declaration of Assistance. All applicants must submit a “Declaration of Assistance” with their Request for Services. In the Declaration of Assistance, the applicant must identify each and every consultant, service provider, and other outside expert, whether paid or unpaid, who aided in the preparation of its applications. The applicant must also describe the nature of the relationship it has with each consultant, service provider, or other outside expert providing such assistance.

(5) Request for proposal (if applicable). (i) Any applicant may use an RFP. Applicants who use an RFP must submit the RFP and any additional relevant bidding information to the Administrator with its Request for Services.

(ii) An applicant must submit an RFP:

(A) If it is required to issue an RFP under applicable State, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations;

(B) If the applicant is a consortium seeking more than $100,000 in program support during the funding year, including applications that seek more than $100,000 in program support for a multi-year commitment; or

(C) If the applicant is a consortium seeking support for participant-constructed and owned network facilities.

(iii) RFP requirements.

(A) An RFP must provide sufficient information to enable an effective competitive bidding process, including describing the health care provider's service needs and defining the scope of the project and network costs (if applicable).

(B) An RFP must specify the time period during which bids will be accepted.

(C) An RFP must include the bid evaluation criteria described in paragraph (d) in this section, and solicit sufficient information so that the criteria can be applied effectively.

(D) Consortium applicants seeking support for long-term capital investments whose useful life extends beyond the time period of the funding commitment (e.g., facilities constructed and owned by the applicant, fiber indefeasible rights of use) must seek bids in the same RFP from service providers who propose to meet those needs via services provided over service provider-owned facilities, for a time period comparable to the life of the proposed capital investment.

(E) Applicants may prepare RFPs in any manner that complies with the rules in this subpart and any applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations.

(6) Additional requirements for Healthcare Connect Fund Program consortium applicants.

(i) Network plan. Consortium applicants must submit a narrative describing specific elements of their network plan with their Request for Services. Consortia applicants are required to use program support for the purposes described in their narrative. The required elements of the narrative include:

(A) Goals and objectives of the network;

(B) Strategy for aggregating the specific needs of health care providers (including providers that serve rural areas) within a state or region;

(C) Strategy for leveraging existing technology to adopt the most efficient and cost-effective means of connecting those providers;

(D) How the supported network will be used to improve or provide health care delivery;

(E) Any previous experience in developing and managing health information technology (including telemedicine) programs; and

(F) A project management plan outlining the project's leadership and management structure, and a work plan, schedule, and budget.

(ii) Letters of agency (LOA). Consortium applicants must submit LOAs pursuant to §54.610.

(f) Public posting by the Administrator. The Administrator shall post on its website the following competitive bidding documents, as applicable:

(1) Request for Services;

(2) Bid evaluation criteria;

(3) RFP; and

(4) Network plans for Healthcare Connect Fund Program applicants.

(g) 28-day waiting period. After posting the documents described in paragraph (f) in this section, as applicable, on its website, the Administrator shall send confirmation of the posting to the applicant. The applicant shall wait at least 28 days from the date on which its competitive bidding documents are posted on the Administrator's website before selecting and committing to a service provider. The confirmation from the Administrator shall include the date after which the applicant may sign a contract with its chosen service provider(s).

(1) Selection of the most “cost-effective” bid and contract negotiation. Each applicant is required to certify to the Administrator that the selected bid is, to the best of the applicant's knowledge, the most cost-effective option available. Applicants are required to submit the documentation, identified in §54.623, to support their certifications.

(2) Applicants who plan to request evergreen status under this section must enter into a contract that identifies both parties, is signed and dated by the health care provider or Consortium Leader after the 28-day waiting period expires, and specifies the type, term, and cost of service(s).

(h) Gift restrictions. (1) Subject to paragraphs (h)(3) and (4) in this section, an eligible health care provider or consortium that includes eligible health care providers, may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value from a service provider participating in or seeking to participate in the Rural Health Care Program. No such service provider shall offer or provide any such gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or other thing of value except as otherwise provided in this section. Modest refreshments not offered as part of a meal, items with little intrinsic value intended solely for presentation, and items worth $20 or less, including meals, may be offered or provided, and accepted by any individual or entity subject to this rule, if the value of these items received by any individual does not exceed $50 from any one service provider per funding year. The $50 amount for any service provider shall be calculated as the aggregate value of all gifts provided during a funding year by the individuals specified in paragraph (h)(2)(ii) in this section.

(2) For purposes of this paragraph:

(i) The terms “health care provider” or “consortium” shall include all individuals who are on the governing boards of such entities and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, consultants, or independent contractors of such entities involved on behalf of such health care provider or consortium with the Rural Health Care Program, including individuals who prepare, approve, sign, or submit Rural Health Care Program applications, or other forms related to the Rural Health Care Program, or who prepare bids, communicate, or work with Rural Health Care Program service providers, consultants, or with the Administrator, as well as any staff of such entities responsible for monitoring compliance with the Rural Health Care Program; and

(ii) The term “service provider” includes all individuals who are on the governing boards of such an entity (such as members of the board of directors), and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, consultants, or independent contractors of such entities.

(3) The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be applicable to the provision of any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value, to the extent given to a family member or a friend working for an eligible health care provider or consortium that includes eligible health care providers, provided that such transactions:

(i) Are motivated solely by a personal relationship;

(ii) Are not rooted in any service provider business activities or any other business relationship with any such eligible health care provider; and

(iii) Are provided using only the donor's personal funds that will not be reimbursed through any employment or business relationship.

(4) Any service provider may make charitable donations to an eligible health care provider or consortium that includes eligible health care providers in the support of its programs as long as such contributions are not directly or indirectly related to the Rural Health Care Program procurement activities or decisions and are not given by service providers to circumvent competitive bidding and other Rural Health Care Program rules, including those in §54.611(a), requiring health care providers under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program to contribute 35 percent of the total cost of all eligible expenses.

(i) Exemptions to the competitive bidding requirements—(1) Government Master Service Agreement (MSA). Eligible health care providers that seek support for services and equipment purchased from MSAs negotiated by federal, state, Tribal, or local government entities on behalf of such health care providers and others, if such MSAs were awarded pursuant to applicable federal, state, Tribal, or local competitive bidding requirements, are exempt from the competitive bidding requirements under this section.

(2) Master Service Agreements approved under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program or Healthcare Connect Fund Program. An eligible health care provider site may opt into an existing MSA approved under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program or Healthcare Connect Fund Program and seek support for services and equipment purchased from the MSA without triggering the competitive bidding requirements under this section, if the MSA was developed and negotiated in response to an RFP that specifically solicited proposals that included a mechanism for adding additional sites to the MSA.

(3) Evergreen contracts. (i) The Administrator may designate a multi-year contract as “evergreen,” which means that the service(s) covered by the contract need not be re-bid during the contract term.

(ii) A contract entered into by a health care provider or consortium as a result of competitive bidding may be designated as evergreen if it meets all of the following requirements:

(A) Is signed by the individual health care provider or consortium lead entity;

(B) Specifies the service type, bandwidth, and quantity;

(C) Specifies the term of the contract;

(D) Specifies the cost of services to be provided; and

(E) Includes the physical location or other identifying information of the health care provider sites purchasing from the contract.

(iii) Participants may exercise voluntary options to extend an evergreen contract without undergoing additional competitive bidding if:

(A) The voluntary extension(s) is memorialized in the evergreen contract;

(B) The decision to extend the contract occurs before the participant files its funding request for the funding year when the contract would otherwise expire; and

(C) The voluntary extension(s) do not exceed five years in the aggregate.

(4) Schools and libraries program master contracts. Subject to the provisions in §54.500, §54.501(c)(1), and §54.503, an eligible health care provider in a consortium with participants in the schools and libraries universal service support program and a party to the consortium's existing contract is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements if the contract was approved in the schools and libraries universal service support program as a master contract. The health care provider must comply with all Rural Health Care Program rules and procedures except for those applicable to competitive bidding.

(5) Annual undiscounted cost of $10,000 or less. An applicant under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program that seeks support for $10,000 or less of total undiscounted eligible expenses for a single year is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements under this section, if the term of the contract is one year or less. This exemption does not apply to applicants under the Telecommunications Program.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.622 was revised. However, 54.622(d), (e)(2), (e)(4) and (e)(5) contain information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.623   Funding requests.

(a) Once a service provider is selected, applicants must submit a Request for Funding (and supporting documentation) to provide information about the services, equipment, or facilities selected; rates, service provider(s); and date(s) of service provider selection, as applicable.

(1) Certifications. The applicant must provide the following certifications as part of its Request for Funding:

(i) The person signing the application is authorized to submit the application on behalf of the health care provider or consortium.

(ii) The applicant has examined the form and all attachments, and to the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief, all statements of fact contained in this section are true.

(iii) The health care provider or consortium has considered all bids received and selected the most cost-effective method of providing the requested services.

(iv) All Rural Health Care Program support will be used only for eligible health care purposes.

(v) The health care provider or consortium is not requesting support for the same service from both the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.

(vi) The health care provider or consortium and/or its consultant, if applicable, has not solicited or accepted a gift or any other thing of value from a service provider participating in or seeking to participate in the Rural Health Care Program.

(vii) The applicant satisfies all of the requirements under section 254 of the Act and applicable Commission rules and understands that any letter from the Administrator that erroneously commits funds for the benefit of the applicant may be subject to rescission.

(viii) The applicant has reviewed all applicable rules and requirements for the Rural Health Care Program and will comply with those rules and requirements.

(ix) The applicant will retain all documentation associated with the applications, including all bids, contracts, scoring matrices, and other information associated with the competitive bidding process, and all billing records for services received, for a period of at least five years.

(x) The consultants or third parties hired by the applicant do not have an ownership interest, sales commission arrangement, or other financial stake in the service provider chosen to provide the requested services, and that they have otherwise complied with the Rural Health Care Program rules, including the Commission's rules requiring a fair and open competitive bidding process.

(xi) Additional certification for the Telecom Program. Telecom Program applicants must certify that the rural rate on their Request for Funding does not exceed the appropriate rural rate determined by the Administrator.

(2) Contracts or other documentation. All applicants must submit a contract or other documentation, as applicable, that clearly identifies the service provider(s) selected and the health care provider(s) who will receive the services; costs for which support is being requested; and the term of the service agreement(s) if applicable (i.e., if services are not being provided on a month-to-month basis). For services provided under contract, the applicant must submit a copy of the contract signed and dated (after the Allowable Contract Selection Date) by the individual health care provider or Consortium Leader. If the services are not being provided under contract, the applicant must submit a bill, service offer, letter, or similar document from the service provider that provides the required information.

(3) Competitive bidding documents. Applicants must submit documentation to support their certifications that they have selected the most cost-effective option, including a copy of each bid received (winning, losing, and disqualified), the bid evaluation criteria, and the following documents (as applicable): Completed bid evaluation worksheets or matrices; explanation for any disqualified bids; a list of people who evaluated bids (along with their title/role/relationship to the applicant organization); memos, board minutes, or similar documents related to the service provider selection/award; copies of notices to winners; and any correspondence with service providers prior to and during the bidding, evaluation, and award phase of the process. Applicants who claim a competitive bidding exemption must submit relevant documentation to allow the Administrator to verify that the applicant is eligible for the claimed exemption.

(4) Cost allocation for ineligible entities or components. Where applicable, applicants must submit a description of how costs will be allocated for ineligible entities or components, as well as any agreements that memorialize such arrangements with ineligible entities.

(5) Additional documentation for Healthcare Connect Fund Program consortium applicants. A consortium applicant must also submit the following:

(i) Any revisions to the network plan submitted with the Request for Services pursuant to §54.622, as necessary. If not previously submitted, the consortium should provide a narrative description of how the network will be managed, including all administrative aspects of the network, including, but not limited to, invoicing, contractual matters, and network operations. If the consortium is required to provide a sustainability plan as set forth in the following, the revised budget should include the budgetary factors discussed in the sustainability plan requirements.

(ii) A list of each participating health care provider and all of their relevant information, including eligible (and ineligible, if applicable) cost information.

(iii) Evidence of a viable source for the undiscounted portion of supported costs.

(iv) Sustainability plans for applicants requesting support for long-term capital expenses: Consortia that seek funding to construct and own their own facilities or obtain indefeasible right of use or capital lease interests are required to submit a sustainability plan with their funding requests demonstrating how they intend to maintain and operate the facilities that are supported over the relevant time period. Applicants may include by reference other portions of their applications (e.g., project management plan, budget). The sustainability plan must, at a minimum, address the following points:

(A) Projected sustainability period. Indicate the sustainability period, which at a minimum is equal to the useful life of the funded facility. The consortium's budget must show projected income and expenses (i.e., for maintenance) for the project at the aggregate level, for the sustainability period.

(B) Principal factors. Discuss each of the principal factors that were considered by the participant to demonstrate sustainability. This discussion must include all factors that show that the proposed network will be sustainable for the entire sustainability period. Any factor that will have a monetary impact on the network must be reflected in the applicant's budget.

(C) Terms of membership in the network. Describe generally any agreements made (or to be entered into) by network members (e.g., participation agreements, memoranda of understanding, usage agreements, or other similar agreements). The sustainability plan must also describe, as applicable:

(1) Financial and time commitments made by proposed members of the network;

(2) If the project includes excess bandwidth for growth of the network, describe how such excess bandwidth will be financed; and

(3) If the network will include ineligible health care providers and other network members, describe how fees for joining and using the network will be assessed.

(D) Ownership structure. Explain who will own each material element of the network (e.g., fiber constructed, network equipment, end user equipment). For purposes of this subsection, “ownership” includes an indefeasible right of use interest. Applicants must clearly identify the legal entity that will own each material element. Applicants must also describe any arrangements made to ensure continued use of such elements by the network members for the duration of the sustainability period.

(E) Sources of future support. Describe other sources of future funding, including fees to be paid by eligible health care providers and/or non-eligible entities.

(F) Management. Describe the management structure of the network for the duration of the sustainability period. The applicant's budget must describe how management costs will be funded.

(v) Material change to sustainability plan. A consortium that is required to file a sustainability plan must maintain its accuracy. If there is a material change to a required sustainability plan that would impact projected income or expenses by more than 20 percent or $100,000 from the previous submission, or if the applicant submits a funding request based on a new Request for Funding (i.e., a new competitively bid contract), the consortium is required to re-file its sustainability plan. In the event of a material change, the applicant must provide the Administrator with the revised sustainability plan no later than the end of the relevant quarter, clearly showing (i.e., by redlining or highlighting) what has changed.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.623 was revised. Sections 54.623(a)(2), (a)(3) and (a)(4) contain information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.624   Site and service substitutions.

(a) Health care providers or Consortium Leaders may request a site or service substitution if:

(1) The substitution is provided for in the contract, within the change clause, or constitutes a minor modification;

(2) The site is an eligible health care provider and the service is an eligible service under the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program;

(3) The substitution does not violate any contract provision or state, Tribal, or local procurement laws; and

(4) The requested change is within the scope of the controlling Request for Services, including any applicable RFP used in the competitive bidding process.

(b) Filing deadline. An applicant must file their request for a site or service change to the Administrator no later than the service delivery deadline as defined in §54.626.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.624 was revised. This section contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.625   Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) changes.

(a) Corrective SPIN change. A “corrective SPIN change” is any amendment to the SPIN associated with a Funding Request Number that does not involve a change to the service provider associated with that Funding Request Number. An applicant under the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program may file a request for a corrective SPIN change with the Administrator to:

(1) Correct ministerial errors;

(2) Update the service provider's SPIN that resulted from a merger or acquisition of companies; or

(3) Effectuate a change to the SPIN that does not involve a change to the service provider of a funding request and was not initiated by the applicant.

(b) Operational SPIN Change. An “operational SPIN change” is any change to the service provider associated with a Funding Request Number. An applicant under the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program may file a request for an operational SPIN change with the Administrator if:

(1) The applicant has a legitimate reason to change providers (e.g., breach of contract or the service provider is unable to perform); and

(2) The applicant's newly selected service provider received the next highest point value in the original bid evaluation, assuming there were multiple bidders.

(c) Filing deadline. An applicant must file their request for a corrective or operational SPIN change with the Administrator no later than the service delivery deadline as defined by §54.626.

§54.626   Service delivery deadline and extension requests.

(a) Service delivery deadline. Except as provided in the following, applicants must use all recurring and non-recurring services for which Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program funding has been approved by June 30 of the funding year for which the program support was sought. The Administrator will deem ineligible for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program support all charges incurred for services delivered before or after the close of the funding year.

(b) Deadline extension for non-recurring services. An applicant may request and receive from the Administrator a one-year extension of the implementation deadline for non-recurring services if it satisfies one of the following criteria:

(1) Applicants whose funding commitment letters are issued by the Administrator on or after March 1 of the funding year for which discounts are authorized;

(2) Applicants that receive service provider change authorizations or site and service authorizations from the Administrator on or after March 1 of the funding year for which discounts are authorized;

Note 1 to paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2): The Administrator shall automatically extend the service delivery deadline for applicants who satisfy paragraphs (b)(1) or (2) in this section. When calculating the extended deadline, March 1 is the key date for determining whether to extend the service delivery deadline. If one of the conditions listed in paragraph (b) in this section is satisfied before March 1 (of any year), the deadline will not be extended and the applicant will have until June 30 of that calendar year to complete implementation. If one of the conditions under paragraph (b)(1) through (2) in this section is satisfied on or after March 1 the calendar year, the applicant will have until June 30 of the following calendar year to complete implementation.

(3) Applicants whose service providers are unable to complete implementation for reasons beyond the service provider's control; or

Note 1 to paragraph (b)(3): An applicant seeking a one-year extension must affirmatively request an extension on or before the June 30 deadline for paragraph (b)(3) in this section. The Administrator will address any situations arising under paragraph (b)(3) in this section on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must submit documentation to the Administrator requesting relief pursuant to paragraph (b)(3) in this section on or before June 30 of the relevant funding year. That documentation must include, at a minimum, an explanation regarding the circumstances that make it impossible for installation to be completed by June 30 and a certification by the applicant that, to the best of their knowledge, the request is truthful.

(4) Applicants whose service providers are unwilling to complete delivery and installation because the applicant's funding request is under review by the Administrator for program compliance.

Note 1 to Paragraph (b)(4): An applicant seeking a one-year extension must affirmatively request an extension on or before the June 30 deadline for paragraph (b)(4) in this section. Applicants seeking an extension under paragraph (b)(4) in this section must certify to the Administrator that their service provider was unwilling to deliver or install the non-recurring services before the end of the funding year. Applicants must make this certification on or before June 30 of the relevant funding year. The revised implementation date will be calculated based on the date the Administrator issues a funding commitment.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.626 was revised. Section 54.626(b) contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.627   Invoicing process and certifications.

(a) Invoice filing deadline. Invoices must be submitted to the Administrator within 120 days after the later of:

(1) The service delivery deadline, as defined in §54.626; or

(2) The date of a revised funding commitment letter issued pursuant to an approved post-commitment request made by the applicant or service provider or a successful appeal of a previously denied or reduced funding request. Before the Administrator may process and pay an invoice, it must receive a completed invoice from the service provider.

(b) Invoice deadline extension. Service providers or billed entities may request a one-time extension of the invoicing deadline by no later than the deadline calculated pursuant to paragraph (a) in this section. The Administrator shall grant a 120-day extension of the invoice filing deadline, if it is timely requested.

(c) Telecommunications Program. (1) The applicant must submit documentation to the Administrator confirming the service start date, the service end or disconnect date, or whether the service was never turned on.

(2) Upon receipt of the invoice(s) and supporting documentation, the Administrator shall generate a Health Care Provider Support Schedule (HSS), which the service provider shall use to determine how much credit the applicant will receive for the services.

(3) Certifications. Before the Administrator may process and pay an invoice, both the health care provider and the service provider must make the following certifications.

(i) The health care provider must certify that:

(A) The service has been or is being provided to the health care provider;

(B) The universal service credit will be applied to the telecommunications service billing account of the health care provider or the billed entity as directed by the health care provider;

(C) It is authorized to submit this request on behalf of the health care provider;

(D) It has examined the invoice and supporting documentation and that to the best of its knowledge, information and belief, all statements of fact contained in the invoice and supporting documentation are true;

(E) It or the consortium it represents satisfies all of the requirements and will abide by all of the relevant requirements, including all applicable Commission rules, with respect to universal service benefits provided under 47 U.S.C. 254; and

(F) It understands that any letter from the Administrator that erroneously states that funds will be made available for the benefit of the applicant may be subject to rescission.

(ii) The service provider must certify that:

(A) The information contained in the invoice is correct and the health care providers and the Billed Account Numbers have been credited with the amounts shown under “Support Amount to be Paid by USAC;”

(B) It has abided by all of the relevant requirements, including all applicable Commission rules;

(C) It has received and reviewed the HSS, invoice form and accompanying documentation, and that the rates charged for the telecommunications services, to the best of its knowledge, information and belief, are accurate and comply with the Commission's rules;

(D) It is authorized to submit the invoice;

(E) The health care provider paid the appropriate urban rate for the telecommunications services;

(F) The rural rate on the invoice does not exceed the appropriate rural rate determined by the Administrator;

(G) It has charged the health care provider for only eligible services prior to submitting the invoice for payment and accompanying documentation;

(H) It has not offered or provided a gift or any other thing of value to the applicant (or to the applicant's personnel, including its consultant) for which it will provide services; and

(I) The consultants or third parties it has hired do not have an ownership interest, sales commission arrangement, or other financial stake in the service provider chosen to provide the requested services, and that they have otherwise complied with Rural Health Care Program rules, including the Commission's rules requiring fair and open competitive bidding.

(J) As a condition of receiving support, it will provide to the health care providers, on a timely basis, all documents regarding supported equipment or services that are necessary for the health care provider to submit required forms or respond to Commission or Administrator inquiries.

(d) Healthcare Connect Fund Program. (1) Certifications. Before the Administrator may process and pay an invoice, the Consortium Leader (or health care provider, if participating individually) and the service provider must make the following certifications:

(i) The Consortium Leader or health care provider must certify that:

(A) It is authorized to submit this request on behalf of the health care provider or consortium;

(B) It has examined the invoice form and attachments and, to the best of its knowledge, information, and belief, all information contained on the invoice form and attachments are true and correct;

(C) The health care provider or consortium members have received the related services, network equipment, and/or facilities itemized on the invoice form; and

(D) The required 35 percent minimum contribution for each item on the invoice form was funded by eligible sources as defined in the Commission's rules and that the required contribution was remitted to the service provider.

(ii) The service provider must certify that:

(A) It has been authorized to submit this request on behalf of the service provider;

(B) It has applied the amount submitted, approved, and paid by the Administrator to the billing account of the health care provider(s) and Funding Request Number (FRN)/FRN ID listed on the invoice;

(C) It has examined the invoice form and attachments and that, to the best of its knowledge, information, and belief, the date, quantities, and costs provided in the invoice form and attachments are true and correct;

(D) It has abided by all program requirements, including all applicable Commission rules and orders;

(E) It has charged the health care provider for only eligible services prior to submitting the invoice form and accompanying documentation;

(F) It has not offered or provided a gift or any other thing of value to the applicant (or to the applicant's personnel, including its consultant) for which it will provide services;

(G) The consultants or third parties it has hired do not have an ownership interest, sales commission arrangement, or other financial stake in the service provider chosen to provide the requested services, and that they have otherwise complied with Rural Health Care Program rules, including the Commission's rules requiring fair and open competitive bidding; and

(H) As a condition of receiving support, it will provide to the health care providers, on a timely basis, all documents regarding supported equipment, facilities, or services that are necessary for the health care provider to submit required forms or respond to Commission or Administrator inquiries.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.627 was revised. Section 54.627 (b) contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.628   Duplicate support.

(a) Eligible health care providers that seek support under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program for telecommunications services may not also request support from the Telecommunications Program for the same services.

(b) Eligible health care providers that seek support under the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund Program may not also request support from any other universal service program for the same expenses.

§54.629   Prohibition on resale.

(a) Prohibition on resale. Services purchased pursuant to universal support mechanisms under this subpart shall not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value.

(b) Permissible fees. The prohibition on resale set forth in paragraph (a) in this section shall not prohibit a health care provider from charging normal fees for health care services, including instruction related to services purchased with support provided under this subpart.

§54.630   Election to offset support against annual universal service fund contribution.

(a) A service provider that contributes to the universal service support mechanisms under this subpart and subpart H of this part to eligible health care providers may, at the election of the contributor:

(1) Treat the amount eligible for support under this subpart as an offset against the contributor's universal service support obligation for the year in which the costs for providing eligible services were incurred; or

(2) Receive direct reimbursement from the Administrator for that amount.

(b) Service providers that are contributors shall elect in January of each year the method by which they will be reimbursed and shall remain subject to that method for the duration of the calendar year. Any support amount that is owed a service provider that fails to remit its monthly universal service contribution obligation shall first be applied as an offset to that contributor's contribution obligation. Such a service provider shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the remainder of the calendar year in which it failed to remit its monthly universal service obligation. A service provider that continues to be in arrears on its universal service contribution obligations at the end of a calendar year shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the next calendar year.

(c) If a service provider providing services eligible for support under this subpart elects to treat that support amount as an offset against its universal service contribution obligation and the total amount of support owed exceeds its universal service obligation, calculated on an annual basis, the service provider shall receive a direct reimbursement in the amount of the difference. Any such reimbursement due a service provider shall be provided by the Administrator no later than the end of the first quarter of the calendar year following the year in which the costs were incurred and the offset against the contributor's universal service obligation was applied.

§54.631   Audits and recordkeeping.

(a) Random audits. All participants under the Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program shall be subject to random compliance audits to ensure compliance with program rules and orders.

(b) Recordkeeping. Participants, including Consortium Leaders and health care providers, shall maintain records to document compliance with program rules and orders for at least five years after the last day of service delivered in a particular funding year sufficient to establish compliance with all rules in this subpart.

(1) Telecommunications Program. (i) Participants must maintain, among other things, records of allocations for consortia and entities that engage in eligible and ineligible activities, if applicable.

(ii) Mobile rural health care providers shall maintain annual logs for a period of five years. Mobile rural health care providers shall maintain annual logs indicating: The date and locations of each clinical stop; and the number of patients served at each clinical stop. Mobile rural health care providers shall make their logs available to the Administrator and the Commission upon request.

(iii) Service providers shall retain documents related to the delivery of discounted services for at least five years after the last day of the delivery of discounted services. Any other document that demonstrates compliance with the statutory or regulatory requirements for the rural health care mechanism shall be retained as well.

(2) Healthcare Connect Fund Program. (i) Participants who receive support for long-term capital investments in facilities whose useful life extends beyond the period of the funding commitment shall maintain records for at least five years after the end of the useful life of the facility. Participants shall maintain asset and inventory records of supported network equipment to verify the actual location of such equipment for a period of five years after purchase.

(ii) Service providers shall retain records related to the delivery of supported services, facilities, or equipment to document compliance with the Commission rules or orders pertaining to the Healthcare Connect Fund Program for at least five years after the last day of the delivery of supported services, equipment, or facilities in a particular funding year.

(c) Production of records. Both participants and service providers under the Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program shall produce such records at the request of the Commission, any auditor appointed by the Administrator or Commission, or any other state or federal agency with jurisdiction.

(d) Obligation of service providers. Service providers in the Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund Program must certify, as a condition of receiving support, that they will provide to health care providers, on a timely basis, all information and documents regarding supported equipment, facilities, or services that are necessary for the health care provider to submit required forms or respond to Commission or Administrator inquiries. The Administrator may withhold disbursements for the service provider if the service provider, after written notice from the Administrator, fails to comply with this requirement.

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 54979, Oct. 11, 2019, §54.631 was revised. Section 54.631(d) contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.632   Signature requirements for certifications.

(a) For individual health care provider applicants, required certifications must be provided and signed by an officer or director of the health care provider, or other authorized employee of the health care provider.

(b) For consortium applicants, an officer, director, or other authorized employee of the Consortium Leader must sign the required certifications.

(c) Pursuant to §54.633, electronic signatures are permitted for all required certifications.

§54.633   Validity of electronic signatures and records.

(a) For the purposes of this subpart, an electronic signature (defined by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, as an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record) has the same legal effect as a written signature.

(b) For the purposes of this subpart, an electronic record (defined by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, as a contract or other record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means) constitutes a record.

Defined Terms and Eligibility

§54.600   Terms and definitions.

As used in this subpart, the following terms shall be defined as follows:

(a) Health care provider. A “health care provider” is any:

(1) Post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, including a teaching hospital or medical school;

(2) Community health center or health center providing health care to migrants;

(3) Local health department or agency;

(4) Community mental health center;

(5) Not-for-profit hospital;

(6) Rural health clinic;

(7) Skilled nursing facility; or

(8) Consortium of health care providers consisting of one or more entities described in paragraphs (a)(1) through (7) of this section.

(b) Rural area. (1) A “rural area” is an area that is entirely outside of a Core Based Statistical Area; is within a Core Based Statistical Area that does not have any Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater; or is in a Core Based Statistical Area that contains an Urban Area with a population of 25,000 or greater, but is within a specific census tract that itself does not contain any part of a Place or Urban Area with a population of greater than 25,000. For purposes of this rule, “Core Based Statistical Area,” “Urban Area,” and “Place” are as identified by the Census Bureau.

(2) Notwithstanding the definition of “rural area,” any health care provider that is located in a “rural area” under the definition used by the Commission prior to July 1, 2005, and received a funding commitment from the rural health care program prior to July 1, 2005, is eligible for support under this subpart.

(c) Rural health care provider. A “rural health care provider” is an eligible health care provider site located in a rural area.

[78 FR 13982, Mar. 1, 2013, as amended at 82 FR 28245, June 21, 2017]

§54.601   Health care provider eligibility.

(a) Eligible health care providers. (1) Only an entity that is either a public or non-profit health care provider, as defined in this subpart, shall be eligible to receive support under this subpart.

(2) Each separate site or location of a health care provider shall be considered an individual health care provider for purposes of calculating and limiting support under this subpart.

(b) Determination of health care provider eligibility for the Healthcare Connect Fund. Health care providers in the Healthcare Connect Fund may certify to the eligibility of particular sites at any time prior to, or concurrently with, filing a request for services to initiate competitive bidding for the site. Applicants who utilize a competitive bidding exemption must provide eligibility information for the site to the Administrator prior to, or concurrently with, filing a request for funding for the site. Health care providers must also notify the Administrator within 30 days of a change in the health care provider's name, site location, contact information, or eligible entity type.

[78 FR 13982, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.602   Health care support mechanism.

(a) Telecommunications Program. Rural health care providers may request support for the difference, if any, between the urban and rural rates for telecommunications services, subject to the provisions and limitations set forth in §§54.600 through 54.625 and §§54.671 through 54.680. This support is referred to as the “Telecommunications Program.”

(b) Healthcare Connect Fund. Eligible health care providers may request support for eligible services, equipment, and infrastructure, subject to the provisions and limitations set forth in §§54.600 through 54.602 and §§54.630 through 54.680. This support is referred to as the “Healthcare Connect Fund.”

(c) Allocation of discounts. An eligible health care provider that engages in both eligible and ineligible activities or that collocates with an ineligible entity shall allocate eligible and ineligible activities in order to receive prorated support for the eligible activities only. Health care providers shall choose a method of cost allocation that is based on objective criteria and reasonably reflects the eligible usage of the facilities.

(d) Health care purposes. Services for which eligible health care providers receive support from the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund must be reasonably related to the provision of health care services or instruction that the health care provider is legally authorized to provide under the law in the state in which such health care services or instruction are provided.

[78 FR 13982, Mar. 1, 2013]

Telecommunications Program

§54.603   Competitive bidding and certification requirements.

(a) Competitive bidding requirement. To select the telecommunications carriers that will provide services eligible for universal service support to it under the Telecommunications Program, each eligible health care provider shall participate in a competitive bidding process pursuant to the requirements established in this section and any additional and applicable state, Tribal, local, or other procurement requirements.

(b) Posting of FCC Form 465. (1) An eligible health care provider seeking to receive telecommunications services eligible for universal service support under the Telecommunications Program shall submit a completed FCC Form 465 to the Administrator. FCC Form 465 shall be signed by the person authorized to order telecommunications services for the health care provider and shall include, at a minimum, that person's certification under oath that:

(i) The requester is a public or non-profit entity that falls within one of the seven categories set forth in the definition of health care provider, listed in §54.600(a);

(ii) The requester is physically located in a rural area;

(iii) [Reserved]

(iv) The requested service or services will be used solely for purposes reasonably related to the provision of health care services or instruction that the health care provider is legally authorized to provide under the law in the state in which such health care services or instruction are provided;

(v) The requested service or services will not be sold, resold or transferred in consideration of money or any other thing of value; and

(vi) If the service or services are being purchased as part of an aggregated purchase with other entities or individuals, the full details of any such arrangement, including the identities of all co-purchasers and the portion of the service or services being purchased by the health care provider.

(2) The Rural Health Care Division shall post each FCC Form 465 that it receives from an eligible health care provider on its website designated for this purpose.

(3) After posting an eligible health care providers FCC Form 465 on the Rural Health Care Corporation website, the Rural Health Care Division shall send confirmation of the posting to the entity requesting services. The health care provider shall wait at least 28 days from the date on which its FCC Form 465 is posted on the website before making commitments with the selected telecommunications carrier(s).

(4) After selecting a telecommunications carrier, the health care provider shall certify to the Rural Health Care Division that the provider is selecting the most cost-effective method of providing the requested service or services, where the most cost-effective method of providing a service is defined as the method that costs the least after consideration of the features, quality of transmission, reliability, and other factors that the health care provider deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services. The health care provider shall submit to the Administrator paper copies of the responses or bids received in response to the requested services.

(5) The confirmation from the Rural Health Care Division shall include the date after which the requester may sign a contract with its chosen telecommunications carrier(s).

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 62 FR 41304, Aug. 1, 1997; 63 FR 2131, Jan. 13, 1998; 68 FR 74502, Dec. 24, 2003; 78 FR 13983, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.604   Consortia, telecommunications services, and existing contracts.

(a) Consortia. (1) Under the Telecommunications Program, an eligible health care provider may join a consortium with other eligible health care providers; with schools, libraries, and library consortia eligible under subpart F of this part; and with public sector (governmental) entities to order telecommunications services. With one exception, eligible health care providers participating in consortia with ineligible private sector members shall not be eligible for supported services under this subpart. A consortium may include ineligible private sector entities if such consortium is only receiving services at tariffed rates or at market rates from those providers who do not file tariffs.

(2) For consortia, universal service support under the Telecommunications Program shall apply only to the portion of eligible services used by an eligible health care provider.

(b) Telecommunications Services. Any telecommunications service that is the subject of a properly completed bona fide request by a rural health care provider shall be eligible for universal service support, subject to the limitations described in this paragraph. The length of a supported telecommunications service may not exceed the distance between the health care provider and the point farthest from that provider on the jurisdictional boundary of the largest city in a state as defined in §54.625(a).

(c) Existing contracts. A signed contract for services eligible for Telecommunications Program support pursuant to this subpart between an eligible health care provider as defined under §54.600 and a telecommunications carrier shall be exempt from the competitive bid requirements set forth in §54.603(a) as follows:

(1) A contract signed on or before July 10, 1997 is exempt from the competitive bid requirement for the life of the contract.

(2) [Reserved]

(d) For rural health care providers that take service under or pursuant to a master contract, as defined in §54.500(f), the date of execution of that master contract represents the applicable date for purposes of determining whether and to what extent the rural health care provider is exempt from the competitive bid requirements.

(e) The competitive bid system will be deemed to be operational when the Administrator is ready to accept and post FCC Form 465 from rural health care providers on a website and that website is available for use by telecommunications carriers.

[63 FR 2131, Jan. 13, 1998; 63 FR 33586, June 19, 1998, as amended at 63 FR 70572, Dec. 21, 1998; 64 FR 22810, Apr. 28, 1999; 71 FR 65750, Nov. 9, 2006; 78 FR 13983, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.605   Determining the urban rate.

(a) If a rural health care provider requests support for an eligible service to be funded from the Telecommunications Program that is to be provided over a distance that is less than or equal to the “standard urban distance,” as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, for the state in which it is located, the “urban rate” for that service shall be a rate no higher than the highest tariffed or publicly-available rate charged to a commercial customer for a functionally similar service in any city with a population of 50,000 or more in that state, calculated as if it were provided between two points within the city.

(b) If a rural health care provider requests an eligible service to be provided over a distance that is greater than the “standard urban distance,” as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, for the state in which it is located, the urban rate for that service shall be a rate no higher than the highest tariffed or publicly-available rate charged to a commercial customer for a functionally similar service provided over the standard urban distance in any city with a population of 50,000 or more in that state, calculated as if the service were provided between two points within the city.

(c) The “standard urban distance” for a state is the average of the longest diameters of all cities with a population of 50,000 or more within the state.

(d) The Administrator shall calculate the “standard urban distance” and shall post the “standard urban distance” and the maximum supported distance for each state on its website.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 63 FR 2131, Jan. 13, 1998; 63 FR 70572, Dec. 21, 1998; 68 FR 74502, Dec. 24, 2003; 78 FR 13983, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.607   Determining the rural rate.

(a) The rural rate shall be the average of the rates actually being charged to commercial customers, other than health care providers, for identical or similar services provided by the telecommunications carrier providing the service in the rural area in which the health care provider is located. The rates included in this average shall be for services provided over the same distance as the eligible service. The rates averaged to calculate the rural rate must not include any rates reduced by universal service support mechanisms. The “rural rate” shall be used as described in this subpart to determine the credit or reimbursement due to a telecommunications carrier that provides eligible telecommunications services to eligible health care providers.

(b) If the telecommunications carrier serving the health care provider is not providing any identical or similar services in the rural area, then the rural rate shall be the average of the tariffed and other publicly available rates, not including any rates reduced by universal service programs, charged for the same or similar services in that rural area over the same distance as the eligible service by other carriers. If there are no tariffed or publicly available rates for such services in that rural area, or if the carrier reasonably determines that this method for calculating the rural rate is unfair, then the carrier shall submit for the state commission's approval, for intrastate rates, or the Commission's approval, for interstate rates, a cost-based rate for the provision of the service in the most economically efficient, reasonably available manner.

(1) The carrier must provide, to the state commission, or intrastate rates, or to the Commission, for interstate rates, a justification of the proposed rural rate, including an itemization of the costs of providing the requested service.

(2) The carrier must provide such information periodically thereafter as required, by the state commission for intrastate rates or the Commission for interstate rates. In doing so, the carrier must take into account anticipated and actual demand for telecommunications services by all customers who will use the facilities over which services are being provided to eligible health care providers.

§54.609   Calculating support.

(a) The amount of universal service support provided for an eligible service to be funded from the Telecommunications Program shall be the difference, if any, between the urban rate and the rural rate charged for the service, as defined herein. In addition, all reasonable charges that are incurred by taking such services, such as state and federal taxes shall be eligible for universal service support. Charges for termination liability, penalty surcharges, and other charges not included in the cost of taking such service shall not be covered by the universal service support mechanisms. Under the Telecommunications Program, rural health care providers may choose one of the following two support options.

(1) Distance based support. The Administrator shall consider the base rates for telecommunications services in rural areas to be reasonably comparable to the base rates charged for functionally similar telecommunications service in urban areas in that state, and, therefore, the Administrator shall not include these charges in calculating the support. The Administrator shall include, in the support calculation, all other charges specified, and all actual distance-based charges as follows:

(i) If the requested service distance is less than or equal to the SUD for the state, the distance-based charges for the rural health care provider are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas, so the health care provider will not receive distance-based support.

(ii) If the requested service distance is greater than the SUD for the state, but less than the maximum allowable distance, the distance-based charge actually incurred for that service can be no higher than the distance-based charges for a functionally similar service in any city in that state with a population of 50,000 or more over the SUD.

(iii) “Distance-based charges” are charges based on a unit of distance, such as mileage-based charges.

(iv) A telecommunications carrier that provides telecommunications service to a rural health care provider participating in an eligible health care consortium, and the consortium must establish the actual distance-based charges for the health care provider's portion of the shared telecommunications services.

(2) Base rate support. If a telecommunications carrier, health care provider, and/or consortium of health care providers reasonably determines that the base rates for telecommunications services in rural areas are not reasonably comparable to the base rates charged for functionally similar telecommunications service in urban areas in that state, the telecommunications carrier, health care provider, and/or consortium of health care providers may request that the Administrator perform a more comprehensive support calculation. The requester shall provide to the Administrator the information to establish both the urban and rural rates consistent with §54.605 and §54.607, and submit to the Administrator with Form 466 all of the documentation necessary to substantiate the request.

(3) Base rate support-consortium. A telecommunications carrier that provides telecommunications service to a rural health care provider participating in an eligible health care consortium, and the consortium must establish the applicable rural base rates for telecommunications service for the health care provider's portion of the shared telecommunications services, as well as the applicable urban base rates for the telecommunications service.

(b) Absent documentation justifying the amount of universal service support requested for health care providers participating in a consortium, the Administrator shall not allow telecommunications carriers to offset, or receive reimbursement for, the amount eligible for universal service support.

(c) The universal service support mechanisms shall provide support for intrastate telecommunications services, as set forth in §54.101(a), provided to rural health care providers as well as interstate telecommunications services.

(d) Satellite services. (1) Rural public and non-profit health care providers may receive support for rural satellite services under the Telecommunications Program, even when another functionally similar terrestrial-based service is available in that rural area. Support for satellite services shall be capped at the amount the rural health care provider would have received if they purchased a functionally similar terrestrial-based alternative.

(2) Rural health care providers seeking support from the Telecommunications Program for satellite services shall provide to the Administrator with the Form 466, documentation of the urban and rural rates for the terrestrial-based alternatives.

(3) Where a rural health care provider seeks a more expensive satellite-based service when a less expensive terrestrial-based alternative is available, the rural health care provider shall be responsible for the additional cost.

(e) Mobile rural health care providers— (1) Calculation of support. The support amount allowed under the Telecommunications Program for satellite services provided to mobile rural health care providers is calculated by comparing the rate for the satellite service to the rate for an urban wireline service with a similar bandwidth. Support for satellite services shall not be capped at an amount of a functionally similar wireline alternative. Where the mobile rural health care provider provides service in more than one state, the calculation shall be based on the urban areas in each state, proportional to the number of locations served in each state.

(2) Documentation of support. (i) Mobile rural health care providers shall provide to the Administrator documentation of the price of bandwidth equivalent wireline services in the urban area in the state or states where the service is provided. Mobile rural health care providers shall provide to the Administrator the number of sites the mobile health care provider will serve during the funding year.

(ii) Where a mobile rural health care provider serves less than eight different sites per year, the mobile rural health care provider shall provide to the Administrator documentation of the price of bandwidth equivalent wireline services. In such case, the Administrator shall determine on a case-by-case basis whether the telecommunications service selected by the mobile rural health care provider is the most cost-effective option. Where a mobile rural health care provider seeks a more expensive satellite-based service when a less expensive wireline alternative is most cost-effective, the mobile rural health care provider shall be responsible for the additional cost.

[68 FR 74502, Dec. 24, 2003, as amended at 70 FR 6373, Feb. 7, 2005; 78 FR 13983, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.613   Limitations on supported services for rural health care providers.

(a) Upon submitting a bona fide request to a telecommunications carrier, each eligible rural health care provider is entitled to receive the most cost-effective, commercially-available telecommunications service at a rate no higher than the highest urban rate, as defined in §54.605, at a distance not to exceed the distance between the eligible health care provider's site and the farthest point on the jurisdictional boundary of the city in that state with the largest population.

(b) [Reserved]

[64 FR 66787, Nov. 30, 1999, as amended at 68 FR 74503, Dec. 24, 2003; 78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.615   Obtaining services.

(a) Selecting a provider. In selecting a telecommunications carrier, a health care provider shall consider all bids submitted and select the most cost-effective alternative.

(b) Receiving supported rate. Upon receiving a bona fide request, as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, from a rural health care provider for a telecommunications service that is eligible for support under the Telecommunications Program, a telecommunications carrier shall provide the service at a rate no higher than the urban rate, as defined in §54.605, subject to the limitations applicable to the Telecommunications Program.

(c) Bona fide request. In order to receive services eligible for support under the Telecommunications Program, an eligible health care provider must submit a request for services to the telecommunications carrier, signed by an authorized officer of the health care provider, and shall include that person's certification under oath that:

(1) The requester is a public or non-profit entity that falls within one of the seven categories set forth in the definition of health care provider, listed in §54.601(a);

(2) The requester is physically located in a rural area, or if the requester is a mobile rural health care provider requesting services under §54.609(e), that the requester has certified that it is serving eligible rural areas;

(3) [Reserved]

(4) The requested service or services will be used solely for purposes reasonably related to the provision of health care services or instruction that the health care provider is legally authorized to provide under the law in the state in which such health care services or instruction are provided;

(5) The requested service or services will not be sold, resold or transferred in consideration of money or any other thing of value;

(6) If the service or services are being purchased as part of an aggregated purchase with other entities or individuals, the full details of any such arrangement, including the identities of all co-purchasers and the portion of the service or services being purchased by the health care provider; and

(7) The requester is selecting the most cost-effective method of providing the requested service or services, where the most cost-effective method of providing a service is defined as the method that costs the least after consideration of the features, quality of transmission, reliability, and other factors that the health care provider deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services.

(d) Annual renewal. The certification set forth in paragraph (c) of this section shall be renewed annually.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 70 FR 6373, Feb. 7, 2005; 78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.619   Audits and recordkeeping.

(a) Health care providers. (1) Health care providers shall maintain for their purchases of services supported under the Telecommunications Program documentation for five years from the end of the funding year sufficient to establish compliance with all rules in this subpart. Documentation must include, among other things, records of allocations for consortia and entities that engage in eligible and ineligible activities, if applicable. Mobile rural health care providers shall maintain annual logs indicating: The date and locations of each clinic stop; and the number of patients served at each such clinic stop.

(2) Mobile rural health care providers shall maintain its annual logs for a period of five years. Mobile rural health care providers shall make its logs available to the Administrator and the Commission upon request.

(b) Production of records. Health care providers shall produce such records at the request of any auditor appointed by the Administrator or any other state or federal agency with jurisdiction.

(c) Random audits. Health care providers shall be subject to random compliance audits to ensure that requesters are complying with the certification requirements set forth in §54.615(c) and are otherwise eligible to receive universal service support and that rates charged comply with the statute and regulations.

(d) Service providers. Service providers shall retain documents related to the delivery of discounted services under the Telecommunications Program for at least 5 years after the last day of the delivery of discounted services. Any other document that demonstrates compliance with the statutory or regulatory requirements for the rural health care mechanism shall be retained as well.

[68 FR 74503, Dec. 24, 2003, as amended at 69 FR 12087, Mar. 15, 2004; 70 FR 6373, Feb. 7, 2005; 71 FR 13281, Mar. 15, 2006; 72 FR 54218, Sept. 24, 2007; 78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.623   Annual filing and funding commitment requirement.

(a) Annual filing requirement. Health care providers seeking support under the Telecommunications Program shall file new funding requests for each funding year.

(b) Long term contracts. Under the Telecommunications Program, if health care providers enter into long term contracts for eligible services, the Administrator shall only commit funds to cover the portion of such a long term contract scheduled to be delivered during the funding year for which universal service support is sought.

[78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.625   Support for telecommunications services beyond the maximum supported distance for rural health care providers.

(a) The maximum support distance for the Telecommunications Program is the distance from the health care provider to the farthest point on the jurisdictional boundary of the city in that state with the largest population, as calculated by the Administrator.

(b) An eligible rural health care provider may purchase an eligible telecommunications service supported under the Telecommunications Program that is provided over a distance that exceeds the maximum supported distance.

(c) If an eligible rural health care provider purchases an eligible telecommunications service supported under the Telecommunications Program that exceeds the maximum supported distance, the health care provider must pay the applicable rural rate for the distance that such service is carried beyond the maximum supported distance.

[78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

Healthcare Connect Fund

§54.630   Eligible recipients.

(a) Rural health care provider site—individual and consortium. Under the Healthcare Connect Fund, an eligible rural health care provider may receive universal service support by applying individually or through a consortium. For purposes of the Healthcare Connect Fund, a “consortium” is a group of two or more health care provider sites that request support through a single application. Consortia may include health care providers who are not eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund, but such health care providers cannot receive support for their expenses and must participate pursuant to the cost allocation guidelines in §54.639(d).

(b) Limitation on participation of non-rural health care provider sites in a consortium. An eligible non-rural health care provider site may receive universal service support only as part of a consortium that includes more than 50 percent eligible rural health care provider sites.

(c) Limitation on large non-rural hospitals. Each eligible non-rural public or non-profit hospital site with 400 or more licensed patient beds may receive no more than $30,000 per year in Healthcare Connect Fund support for eligible recurring charges and no more than $70,000 in Healthcare Connect Fund support every 5 years for eligible nonrecurring charges, exclusive in both cases of costs shared by the network.

[78 FR 13984, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.631   Designation of Consortium Leader.

(a) Identifying a Consortium Leader. Each consortium seeking support from the Healthcare Connect Fund must identify an entity or organization that will be the lead entity (the “Consortium Leader”).

(b) Consortium Leader eligibility. The Consortium Leader may be the consortium itself (if it is a distinct legal entity); an eligible health care provider participating in the consortium; or a state organization, public sector (governmental) entity (including a Tribal government entity), or non-profit entity that is ineligible for Healthcare Connect Fund support. Ineligible state organizations, public sector entities, or non-profit entities may serve as Consortium Leaders or provide consulting assistance to consortia only if they do not participate as potential vendors during the competitive bidding process. An ineligible entity that serves as the Consortium Leader must pass on the full value of any discounts, funding, or other program benefits secured to the consortium members that are eligible health care providers.

(c) Consortium Leader responsibilities. The Consortium Leader's responsibilities include the following:

(1) Legal and financial responsibility for supported activities. The Consortium Leader is the legally and financially responsible entity for the activities supported by the Healthcare Connect Fund. By default, the Consortium Leader is the responsible entity if audits or other investigations by Administrator or the Commission reveal violations of the Act or Commission rules, with individual consortium members being jointly and severally liable if the Consortium Leader dissolves, files for bankruptcy, or otherwise fails to meet its obligations. Except for the responsibilities specifically described in paragraphs (c)(2) through (c)(6) of this section, consortia may allocate legal and financial responsibility as they see fit, provided that this allocation is memorialized in a formal written agreement between the affected parties (i.e., the Consortium Leader, and the consortium as a whole and/or its individual members), and the written agreement is submitted to the Administrator for approval with or prior to the Request for Services. Any such agreement must clearly identify the party(ies) responsible for repayment if the Administrator is required, at a later date, to recover disbursements to the consortium due to violations of program rules.

(2) Point of contact for the FCC and Administrator. The Consortium Leader is responsible for designating an individual who will be the “Project Coordinator” and serve as the point of contact with the Commission and the Administrator for all matters related to the consortium. The Consortium Leader is responsible for responding to Commission and Administrator inquiries on behalf of the consortium members throughout the application, funding, invoicing, and post-invoicing period.

(3) Typical applicant functions, including forms and certifications. The Consortium Leader is responsible for submitting program forms and required documentation and ensuring that all information and certifications submitted are true and correct. The Consortium Leader must also collect and retain a Letter of Agency (LOA) from each member, pursuant to §54.632.

(4) Competitive bidding and cost allocation. The Consortium Leader is responsible for ensuring that the competitive bidding process is fair and open and otherwise complies with Commission requirements. If costs are shared by both eligible and ineligible entities, the Consortium Leader must ensure that costs are allocated in a manner that ensures that only eligible entities receive the benefit of program discounts.

(5) Invoicing. The Consortium Leader is responsible for notifying the Administrator when supported services have commenced and for submitting invoices to the Administrator.

(6) Recordkeeping, site visits, and audits. The Consortium Leader is also responsible for compliance with the Commission's recordkeeping requirements and for coordinating site visits and audits for all consortium members.

[78 FR 13985, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.632   Letters of agency (LOA).

(a) Authorizations. Under the Healthcare Connect Fund, the Consortium Leader must obtain the following authorizations.

(1) Prior to the submission of the request for services, the Consortium Leader must obtain authorization, the necessary certifications, and any supporting documentation from each consortium member to permit the Consortium Leader to submit the request for services and prepare and post the request for proposal on behalf of the member.

(2) Prior to the submission of the funding request, the Consortium Leader must secure authorization, the necessary certifications, and any supporting documentation from each consortium member to permit the Consortium Leader to submit the funding request and manage invoicing and payments on behalf of the member.

(b) Optional two-step process. The Consortium Leader may secure both required authorizations from each consortium member in either a single LOA or in two separate LOAs.

(c) Required Information in LOA. (1) An LOA must include, at a minimum, the name of the entity filing the application (i.e., lead applicant or Consortium Leader); name of the entity authorizing the filing of the application (i.e., the participating health care provider/consortium member); the physical location of the health care provider/consortium member site(s); the relationship of each site seeking support to the lead entity filing the application; the specific timeframe the LOA covers; the signature, title and contact information (including phone number, mailing address, and email address) of an official who is authorized to act on behalf of the health care provider/consortium member; signature date; and the type of services covered by the LOA.

(2) For HCPs located on Tribal lands, if the health care facility is a contract facility that is run solely by the tribe, the appropriate tribal leader, such as the tribal chairperson, president, or governor, shall also sign the LOA, unless the health care responsibilities have been duly delegated to another tribal government representative.

[78 FR 13985, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.633   Health care provider contribution.

(a) Health care provider contribution. All health care providers receiving support under the Healthcare Connect Fund shall receive a 65 percent discount on the cost of eligible expenses and shall be required to contribute 35 percent of the total cost of all eligible expenses.

(b) Limits on eligible sources of health care provider contribution. Only funds from eligible sources may be applied toward the health care provider's required contribution.

(1) Eligible sources include the applicant or eligible health care provider participants; state grants, funding, or appropriations; federal funding, grants, loans, or appropriations except for other federal universal service funding; Tribal government funding; and other grant funding, including private grants.

(2) Ineligible sources include (but are not limited to) in-kind or implied contributions from health care providers; direct payments from vendors or other service providers, including contractors and consultants to such entities; and for-profit entities.

(c) Disclosure of health care provider contribution source. Prior to receiving support, applicants are required to identify with specificity their sources of funding for their contribution of eligible expenses.

(d) Future revenues from excess capacity as source of health care provider contribution. A consortium applicant that receives support for participant-owned network facilities under §54.636 may use future revenues from excess capacity as a source for the required health care provider contribution, subject to the following limitations.

(1) The consortium's selection criteria and evaluation for “cost-effectiveness” pursuant to §54.642 cannot provide a preference to bidders that offer to construct excess capacity.

(2) The applicant must pay the full amount of the additional costs for excess capacity facilities that will not be part of the supported health care network.

(3) The additional cost of constructing excess capacity facilities may not count toward a health care provider's required contribution.

(4) The inclusion of excess capacity facilities cannot increase the funded cost of the dedicated health care network in any way.

(5) An eligible health care provider (typically the consortium, although it may be an individual health care provider participating in the consortium) must retain ownership of the excess capacity facilities. It may make the facilities available to third parties only under an indefeasible right of use (IRU) or lease arrangement. The lease or IRU between the participant and the third party must be an arm's length transaction. To ensure that this is an arm's length transaction, neither the vendor that installs the excess capacity facilities nor its affiliate is eligible to enter into an IRU or lease with the participant.

(6) Any amount prepaid for use of the excess capacity facilities (IRU or lease) must be placed in an escrow account. The participant can then use the escrow account as an eligible source of funds for the participant's 35 percent contribution to the project.

(7) All revenues from use of the excess capacity facilities by the third party must be used for the health care provider contribution or for sustainability of the health care network supported by the Healthcare Connect Fund. Network costs that may be funded with any additional revenues that remain include administration, equipment, software, legal fees, or other costs not covered by the Healthcare Connect Fund, as long as they are relevant to sustaining the network.

[78 FR 13985, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.634   Eligible services.

(a) Eligible services. Subject to the provisions of §§54.600 through 54.602 and §§54.630 through 54.680, eligible health care providers may request support from the Healthcare Connect Fund for any advanced telecommunications or information service that enables health care providers to post their own data, interact with stored data, generate new data, or communicate, by providing connectivity over private dedicated networks or the public Internet for the provision of health information technology.

(b) Eligibility of dark fiber. A consortium of eligible health care providers may receive support for “dark” fiber where the customer, not the vendor, provides the modulating electronics, subject to the following limitations:

(1) Support for recurring charges associated with dark fiber is only available once the dark fiber is “lit” and actually being used by the health care provider. Support for non-recurring charges for dark fiber is only available for fiber lit within the same funding year, but applicants may receive up to a one-year extension to light fiber if they provide documentation to the Administrator that construction was unavoidably delayed due to weather or other reasons.

(2) Requests for proposals (RFPs) that solicit dark fiber solutions must also solicit proposals to provide the needed services over lit fiber over a time period comparable to the duration of the dark fiber lease or indefeasible right of use.

(3) If an applicant intends to request support for equipment and maintenance costs associated with lighting and operating dark fiber, it must include such elements in the same RFP as the dark fiber so that the Administrator can review all costs associated with the fiber when determining whether the applicant chose the most cost-effective bid.

(c) Dark and lit fiber maintenance costs. (1) Both individual and consortium applicants may receive support for recurring maintenance costs associated with leases of dark or lit fiber.

(2) Consortium applicants may receive support for upfront payments for maintenance costs associated with leases of dark or lit fiber, subject to the limitations in §54.638.

(d) Reasonable and customary installation charges. Eligible health care providers may obtain support for reasonable and customary installation charges for eligible services, up to an undiscounted cost of $5,000 per eligible site.

(e) Upfront charges for vendor deployment of new or upgraded facilities. (1) Participants may obtain support for upfront charges for vendor deployment of new or upgraded facilities to serve eligible sites.

(2) Support is available to extend vendor deployment of facilities up to the “demarcation point,” which is the boundary between facilities owned or controlled by the vendor, and facilities owned or controlled by the customer.

[78 FR 13986, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.635   Eligible equipment.

(a) Both individual and consortium applicants may receive support for network equipment necessary to make functional an eligible service that is supported under the Healthcare Connect Fund.

(b) Consortium applicants may also receive support for network equipment necessary to manage, control, or maintain an eligible service or a dedicated health care broadband network. Support for network equipment is not available for networks that are not dedicated to health care.

(c) Network equipment eligible for support includes the following:

(1) Equipment that terminates a carrier's or other provider's transmission facility and any router/switch that is directly connected to either the facility or the terminating equipment. This includes equipment required to light dark fiber, or equipment necessary to connect dedicated health care broadband networks or individual health care providers to middle mile or backbone networks;

(2) Computers, including servers, and related hardware (e.g. printers, scanners, laptops) that are used exclusively for network management;

(3) Software used for network management, maintenance, or other network operations, and development of software that supports network management, maintenance, and other network operations;

(4) Costs of engineering, furnishing (i.e. as delivered from the manufacturer), and installing network equipment; and

(5) Equipment that is a necessary part of health care provider-owned network facilities.

(d) Additional limitations: Support for network equipment is limited to equipment:

(1) Purchased or leased by a Consortium Leader or eligible health care provider; and

(2) Used for health care purposes.

[78 FR 13986, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.636   Eligible participant-constructed and owned network facilities for consortium applicants.

(a) Subject to the funding limitations under §§54.675 and 54.638 and the following restrictions, consortium applicants may receive support for network facilities that will be constructed and owned by the consortium (if the consortium is an eligible health care provider) or eligible health care providers within the consortium.

(1) Consortia seeking support to construct and own network facilities are required to solicit bids for both:

(i) Services provided over third-party networks; and

(ii) Construction of participant-owned network facilities, in the same request for proposals. Requests for proposals must provide sufficient detail so that cost-effectiveness can be evaluated over the useful life of the proposed network facility to be constructed.

(2) Support for participant-constructed and owned network facilities is only available where the consortium demonstrates that constructing its own network facilities is the most cost-effective option after competitive bidding, pursuant to §54.642.

(b) [Reserved]

[78 FR 13987, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.637   Off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.

(a) The connections and network equipment associated with off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices used by eligible health care providers for their health care purposes are eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund, subject to the conditions and restrictions set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.

(1) An “off-site administrative office” is a facility that does not provide hands-on delivery of patient care, but performs administrative support functions that are critical to the provision of clinical care by eligible health care providers.

(2) An “off-site data center” is a facility that serves as a centralized repository for the storage, management, and dissemination of an eligible health care provider's computer systems, associated components, and data, including (but not limited to) electronic health records.

(b) Conditions and Restrictions. The following conditions and restrictions apply to support provided under this sections.

(1) Connections eligible for support are only those that are between:

(i) Eligible health care provider sites and off-site data centers or off-site administrative offices,

(ii) Two off-site data centers,

(iii) Two off-site administrative offices,

(iv) An off-site data center and the public Internet or another network,

(v) An off-site administrative office and the public Internet or another network, or

(vi) An off-site administrative office and an off-site data center.

(2) The supported connections and network equipment must be used solely for health care purposes.

(3) The supported connections and network equipment must be purchased by an eligible health care provider or a public or non-profit health care system that owns and operates eligible health care provider sites.

(4) If traffic associated with one or more ineligible health care provider sites is carried by the supported connection and/or network equipment, the ineligible health care provider sites must allocate the cost of that connection and/or equipment between eligible and ineligible sites, consistent with the “fair share” principles set forth in §54.639(d).

[78 FR 13987, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.638   Upfront payments.

(a) Upfront payments include all non-recurring costs for services, equipment, or facilities, other than reasonable and customary installation charges of up to $5,000.

(b) The following limitations apply to all upfront payments:

(1) Upfront payments associated with services providing a bandwidth of less than 1.5 Mbps (symmetrical) are not eligible for support.

(2) Only consortium applicants are eligible for support for upfront payments.

(c) The following limitations apply if a consortium makes a request for support for upfront payments that exceeds, on average, $50,000 per eligible site in the consortium:

(1) The support for the upfront payments must be prorated over at least three years.

(2) The upfront payments must be part of a multi-year contract.

[78 FR 13987, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.639   Ineligible expenses.

(a) Equipment or services not directly associated with eligible services. Expenses associated with equipment or services that are not necessary to make an eligible service functional, or to manage, control, or maintain an eligible service or a dedicated health care broadband network are ineligible for support.

Note to paragraph (a): The following are examples of ineligible expenses:

1. Costs associated with general computing, software, applications, and Internet content development are not supported, including the following:

i. Computers, including servers, and related hardware (e.g., printers, scanners, laptops), unless used exclusively for network management, maintenance, or other network operations;

ii. End user wireless devices, such as smartphones and tablets;

iii. Software, unless used for network management, maintenance, or other network operations;

iv. Software development (excluding development of software that supports network management, maintenance, and other network operations);

v. Helpdesk equipment and related software, or services, unless used exclusively in support of eligible services or equipment;

vi. Web server hosting;

vii. Web site portal development;

viii. Video/audio/web conferencing equipment or services; and

ix. Continuous power source.

2. Costs associated with medical equipment (hardware and software), and other general health care provider expenses are not supported, including the following:

i. Clinical or medical equipment;

ii. Telemedicine equipment, applications, and software;

iii. Training for use of telemedicine equipment;

iv. Electronic medical records systems; and

v. Electronic records management and expenses.

(b) Inside wiring/internal connections. Expenses associated with inside wiring or internal connections are ineligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund.

(c) Administrative expenses. Administrative expenses are not eligible for support under the Healthcare Connect Fund.

Note to paragraph (c): Ineligible administrative expenses include, but not limited to, the following expenses:

1. Personnel costs (including salaries and fringe benefits), except for personnel expenses in a consortium application that directly relate to designing, engineering, installing, constructing, and managing a dedicated broadband network. Ineligible costs of this category include, for example, personnel to perform program management and coordination, program administration, and marketing;

2. Travel costs, except for travel costs that are reasonable and necessary for network design or deployment and that are specifically identified and justified as part of a competitive bid for a construction project;

3. Legal costs;

4. Training, except for basic training or instruction directly related to and required for broadband network installation and associated network operations;

5. Program administration or technical coordination (e.g., preparing application materials, obtaining letters of agency, preparing request for proposals, negotiating with vendors, reviewing bids, and working with the Administrator) that involves anything other than the design, engineering, operations, installation, or construction of the network;

6. Administration and marketing costs (e.g., administrative costs; supplies and materials, except as part of network installation/construction; marketing studies, marketing activities, or outreach to potential network members; evaluation and feedback studies);

7. Billing expenses (e.g., expense that vendors may charge for allocating costs to each health care provider in a network);

8. Helpdesk expenses (e.g., equipment and related software, or services); and

9. Technical support services that provide more than basic maintenance.

(d) Cost allocation for ineligible sites, services, or equipment—(1) Ineligible sites. Eligible health care provider sites may share expenses with ineligible sites, as long as the ineligible sites pay their fair share of the expenses. An applicant may seek support for only the portion of a shared eligible expense attributable to eligible health care provider sites. To receive support, the applicant must ensure that ineligible sites pay their fair share of the expense. The fair share is determined as follows:

(i) If the vendor charges a separate and independent price for each site, an ineligible site must pay the full undiscounted price.

(ii) If there is no separate and independent price for each site, the applicant must prorate the undiscounted price for the “shared” service, equipment, or facility between eligible and ineligible sites on a proportional fully-distributed basis. Applicants must make this cost allocation using a method that is based on objective criteria and reasonably reflects the eligible usage of the shared service, equipment, or facility. The applicant bears the burden of demonstrating the reasonableness of the allocation method chosen.

(2) Ineligible components of a single service or piece of equipment. Applicants seeking support for a service or piece of equipment that includes an ineligible component must explicitly request in their requests for proposals that vendors include pricing for a comparable service or piece of equipment that is comprised of only eligible components. If the selected provider also submits a price for the eligible component on a stand-alone basis, the support amount is calculated based on the stand-alone price of the eligible component on a stand-alone basis. If the vendor does not offer the eligible component on a stand-alone basis, the full price of the entire service or piece of equipment must be taken into account, without regard to the value of the ineligible components, when determining the most cost-effective bid.

(3) Written description. Applicants must submit a written description of their allocation method(s) to the Administrator with their funding requests.

(4) Written agreement. If ineligible entities participate in a network, the allocation method must be memorialized in writing, such as a formal agreement among network members, a master services contract, or for smaller consortia, a letter signed and dated by all (or each) ineligible entity and the Consortium Leader.

[78 FR 13987, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.640   Eligible vendors.

(a) Eligibility. For purposes of the Healthcare Connect Fund, eligible vendors shall include any provider of equipment, facilities, or services that are eligible for support under Healthcare Connect Fund.

(b) Obligation to assist health care providers. Vendors in the Healthcare Connect Fund must certify, as a condition of receiving support, that they will provide to health care providers, on a timely basis, all information and documents regarding supported equipment, facilities, or services that are necessary for the health care provider to submit required forms or respond to Commission or Administrator inquiries. The Administrator may withhold disbursements for the vendor if the vendor, after written notice from the Administrator, fails to comply with this requirement.

[78 FR 13988, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.642   Competitive bidding requirement and exemptions.

(a) Competitive bidding requirement. All applicants are required to engage in a competitive bidding process for supported services, facilities, or equipment consistent with the requirements set forth in this subpart, unless they qualify for one or more of the exemptions in paragraph (h) of this section. In addition, applicants may engage in competitive bidding even if they qualify for an exemption. Applicants who utilize a competitive bidding exemption may proceed directly to filing a funding request as described in §54.643.

(b) Fair and open process. (1) All entities participating in the Healthcare Connect Fund must conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process, consistent with all applicable requirements.

(2) Vendors who intend to bid to provide supported services, equipment, or facilities to a health care provider may not simultaneously help the health care provider choose a winning bid. Any vendor who submits a bid, and any individual or entity that has a financial interest in such a vendor, is prohibited from:

(i) Preparing, signing or submitting an applicant's request for services;

(ii) Serving as the Consortium Leader or other point of contact on behalf of applicant(s);

(iii) Being involved in setting bid evaluation criteria; or

(iv) Participating in the bid evaluation or vendor selection process (except in their role as potential vendors).

(3) All potential bidders must have access to the same information and must be treated in the same manner.

(4) All applicants and vendors must comply with any applicable state, Tribal, or local competitive bidding requirements. The competitive bidding requirements in this section apply in addition to state, Tribal, and local competitive bidding requirements and are not intended to preempt such state, Tribal, or local requirements.

(c) Cost-effective. For purposes of the Healthcare Connect Fund, “cost-effective” is defined as the method that costs the least after consideration of the features, quality of transmission, reliability, and other factors that the health care provider deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services.

(d) Bid evaluation criteria. Applicants must develop weighted evaluation criteria (e.g., scoring matrix) that demonstrate how the applicant will choose the most “cost-effective” bid before submitting a Request for Services. Price must be a primary factor, but need not be the only primary factor. A non-price factor can receive an equal weight to price, but may not receive a greater weight than price.

(e) Request for services. Applicants must submit the following documents to the Administrator in order to initiate competitive bidding.

(1) Form 461, including certifications. The applicant must provide the following certifications as part of the request for services.

(i) The person signing the application is authorized to submit the application on behalf of the applicant and has examined the form and all attachments, and to the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief, all statements of fact contained therein are true.

(ii) The applicant has followed any applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules.

(iii) All Healthcare Connect Fund support will be used solely for purposes reasonably related to the provision of health care service or instruction that the HCP is legally authorized to provide under the law of the state in which the services are provided and will not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value.

(iv) The applicant satisfies all of the requirements under section 254 of the Act and applicable Commission rules.

(v) The applicant has reviewed all applicable requirements for the program and will comply with those requirements.

(2) Bid evaluation criteria. Requirements for bid evaluation criteria are described in paragraph (d) of this section.

(3) Declaration of assistance. All applicants must submit a “Declaration of Assistance” with their Request for Services. In the Declaration of Assistance, applicants must identify each and every consultant, vendor, and other outside expert, whether paid or unpaid, who aided in the preparation of their applications.

(4) Request for proposal (if applicable). (i) Any applicant may use a request for proposals (RFP). Applicants who use an RFP must submit the RFP and any additional relevant bidding information to the Administrator with Form 461.

(ii) An applicant must submit an RFP:

(A) If it is required to issue an RFP under applicable State, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations;

(B) If the applicant is a consortium seeking more than $100,000 in program support during the funding year, including applications that seek more than $100,000 in program support for a multi-year commitment; or

(C) If the applicant is a consortium seeking support for participant-constructed and owned network facilities.

(iii) RFP requirements. (A) An RFP must provide sufficient information to enable an effective competitive bidding process, including describing the health care provider's service needs and defining the scope of the project and network costs (if applicable).

(B) An RFP must specify the period during which bids will be accepted.

(C) An RFP must include the bid evaluation criteria described in paragraph (d) of this section, and solicit sufficient information so that the criteria can be applied effectively.

(D) Consortium applicants seeking support for long-term capital investments whose useful life extends beyond the period of the funding commitment (e.g., facilities constructed and owned by the applicant, fiber indefeasible rights of use) must seek bids in the same RFP from vendors who propose to meet those needs via services provided over vendor-owned facilities, for a time period comparable to the life of the proposed capital investment.

(E) Applicants may prepare RFPs in any manner that complies with the rules in this subpart and any applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations.

(5) Additional requirements for consortium applicants. (i) Network plan. Consortium applicants must submit a narrative describing specific elements of their network plan with their Request for Services. Consortia applicants are required to use program support for the purposes described in their narrative. The required elements of the narrative include:

(A) Goals and objectives of the network;

(B) Strategy for aggregating the specific needs of health care providers (including providers that serve rural areas) within a state or region;

(C) Strategy for leveraging existing technology to adopt the most efficient and cost effective means of connecting those providers;

(D) How the supported network will be used to improve or provide health care delivery;

(E) Any previous experience in developing and managing health information technology (including telemedicine) programs; and

(F) A project management plan outlining the project's leadership and management structure, and a work plan, schedule, and budget.

(ii) Letters of agency. Consortium applicants must submit letters of agency pursuant to §54.632.

(f) Public posting by the Administrator. The Administrator shall post on its web site the following competitive bidding documents, as applicable:

(1) Form 461,

(2) Bid evaluation criteria,

(3) Request for proposal, and

(4) Network plan.

(g) 28-day waiting period. After posting the documents described in paragraph (f) of this section on its Web site, the Administrator shall send confirmation of the posting to the applicant. The applicant shall wait at least 28 days from the date on which its competitive bidding documents are posted on the Web site before selecting and committing to a vendor.

(1) Selection of the most “cost-effective” bid and contract negotiation. Each applicant subject to competitive bidding is required to certify to the Administrator that the selected bid is, to the best of the applicant's knowledge, the most cost-effective option available. Applicants are required to submit the documentation listed in §54.643 to support their certifications.

(2) Applicants who plan to request evergreen status under §54.642(h)(4)(ii) must enter into a contract that identifies both parties, is signed and dated by the health care provider or Consortium Leader after the 28-day waiting period expires, and specifies the type, term, and cost of service.

(h) Exemptions to competitive bidding requirements. (1) Annual undiscounted cost of $10,000 or less. An applicant that seeks support for $10,000 or less of total undiscounted eligible expenses for a single year is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements under this section, if the term of the contract is one year or less.

(2) Government Master Service Agreement (MSA). Eligible health care providers that seek support for services and equipment purchased from MSAs negotiated by federal, state, Tribal, or local government entities on behalf of such health care providers and others, if such MSAs were awarded pursuant to applicable federal, state, Tribal, or local competitive bidding requirements, are exempt from the competitive bidding requirements under this section.

(3) Master Service Agreements approved under the Pilot Program or Healthcare Connect Fund. A eligible health care provider site may opt into an existing MSA approved under the Pilot Program or Healthcare Connect Fund and seek support for services and equipment purchased from the MSA without triggering the competitive bidding requirements under this section, if the MSA was developed and negotiated in response to an RFP that specifically solicited proposals that included a mechanism for adding additional sites to the MSA.

(4) Evergreen contracts. (i) Subject to the provisions in §54.644, the Administrator may designate a multi-year contract as “evergreen,” which means that the service(s) covered by the contract need not be re-bid during the contract term.

(ii) A contract entered into by a health care provider or consortium as a result of competitive bidding may be designated as evergreen if it meets all of the following requirements:

(A) Is signed by the individual health care provider or consortium lead entity;

(B) Specifies the service type, bandwidth and quantity;

(C) Specifies the term of the contract;

(D) Specifies the cost of services to be provided; and

(E) Includes the physical location or other identifying information of the health care provider sites purchasing from the contract.

(iii) Participants may exercise voluntary options to extend an evergreen contract without undergoing additional competitive bidding, if:

(A) The voluntary extension(s) is memorialized in the evergreen contract;

(B) The decision to extend the contract occurs before the participant files its funding request for the funding year when the contract would otherwise expire; and

(C) The voluntary extension(s) do not exceed five years in the aggregate.

(5) Schools and libraries program master contracts. Subject to the provisions in §§54.500, 54.501(c)(1), and 54.503, an eligible health care provider in a consortium with participants in the schools and libraries universal service support program and a party to the consortium's existing contract is exempt from the Healthcare Connect Fund competitive bidding requirements if the contract was approved in the schools and libraries universal service support program as a master contract. The health care provider must comply with all Healthcare Connect Fund rules and procedures except for those applicable to competitive bidding.

[78 FR 13988, Mar. 1, 2013, as amended at 79 FR 49203, Aug. 19, 2014]

§54.643   Funding commitments.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019.

(a) Once a vendor is selected, applicants must submit a “Funding Request” (and supporting documentation) to provide information about the services, equipment, or facilities selected and certify that the services selected were the most cost-effective option of the offers received. The following information should be submitted to the Administrator with the Funding Request.

(1) Request for funding. The applicant shall submit a request for funding (Form 462) to identify the service(s), equipment, or facilities; rates; vendor(s); and date(s) of vendor selection.

(2) Certifications. The applicant must provide the following certifications as part of the request for funding:

(i) The person signing the application is authorized to submit the application on behalf of the applicant and has examined the form and all attachments, and to the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief, all statements of fact contained therein are true.

(ii) Each vendor selected is, to the best of the applicant's knowledge, information and belief, the most cost-effective vendor available, as defined in §54.642(c).

(iii) All Healthcare Connect Fund support will be used only for eligible health care purposes.

(iv) The applicant is not requesting support for the same service from both the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund.

(v) The applicant satisfies all of the requirements under section 254 of the Act and applicable Commission rules, and understands that any letter from the Administrator that erroneously commits funds for the benefit of the applicant may be subject to rescission.

(vi) The applicant has reviewed all applicable requirements for the program and will comply with those requirements.

(vii) The applicant will maintain complete billing records for the service for five years.

(3) Contracts or other documentation. All applicants must submit a contract or other documentation that clearly identifies the vendor(s) selected and the health care provider(s) who will receive the services, equipment, or facilities; the service, bandwidth, and costs for which support is being requested; and the term of the service agreement(s) if applicable (i.e., if services are not being provided on a month-to-month basis). For services, equipment, or facilities provided under contract, the applicant must submit a copy of the contract signed and dated (after the Allowable Contract Selection Date) by the individual health care provider or Consortium Leader. If the service, equipment, or facilities are not being provided under contract, the applicant must submit a bill, service offer, letter, or similar document from the vendor that provides the required information.

(4) Competitive bidding documents. Applicants must submit documentation to support their certifications that they have selected the most cost-effective option, including a copy of each bid received (winning, losing, and disqualified), the bid evaluation criteria, and the following documents (as applicable): bid evaluation sheets; a list of people who evaluated bids (along with their title/role/relationship to the applicant organization); memos, board minutes, or similar documents related to the vendor selection/award; copies of notices to winners; and any correspondence with vendors during the bidding/evaluation/award phase of the process. Applicants who claim a competitive bidding exemption must submit relevant documentation to allow the Administrator to verify that the applicant is eligible for the claimed exemption.

(5) Cost allocation for ineligible entities or components. Pursuant to §54.639(d)(3) through (d)(4), where applicable, applicants must submit a description of how costs will be allocated for ineligible entities or components, as well as any agreements that memorialize such arrangements with ineligible entities.

(6) Additional documentation for consortium applicants. A consortium applicant must also submit the following:

(i) Any revisions to the network plan submitted with the Request for Services pursuant to §54.642(e)(5)(i), as necessary. If not previously submitted, the consortium should provide a narrative description of how the network will be managed, including all administrative aspects of the network, including but not limited to invoicing, contractual matters, and network operations. If the consortium is required to provide a sustainability plan as set forth in §54.643(a)(6)(iv), the revised budget should include the budgetary factors discussed in the sustainability plan requirements.

(ii) A list of participating health care providers and all of their relevant information, including eligible (and ineligible, if applicable) cost information for each participating health care provider.

(iii) Evidence of a viable source for the undiscounted portion of supported costs.

(iv) Sustainability plans for applicants requesting support for long-term capital expenses: Consortia that seek funding to construct and own their own facilities or obtain indefeasible right of use or capital lease interests are required to submit a sustainability plan with their funding requests demonstrating how they intend to maintain and operate the facilities that are supported over the relevant time period. Applicants may incorporate by reference other portions of their applications (e.g., project management plan, budget). The sustainability plan must, at a minimum, address the following points:

(A) Projected sustainability period. Indicate the sustainability period, which at a minimum is equal to the useful life of the funded facility. The consortium's budget must show projected income and expenses (i.e., for maintenance) for the project at the aggregate level, for the sustainability period.

(B) Principal factors. Discuss each of the principal factors that were considered by the participant to demonstrate sustainability. This discussion must include all factors that show that the proposed network will be sustainable for the entire sustainability period. Any factor that will have a monetary impact on the network must be reflected in the applicant's budget.

(C) Terms of membership in the network. Describe generally any agreements made (or to be entered into) by network members (e.g., participation agreements, memoranda of understanding, usage agreements, or other similar agreements). The sustainability plan must also describe, as applicable:

(1) Financial and time commitments made by proposed members of the network;

(2) If the project includes excess bandwidth for growth of the network, describe how such excess bandwidth will be financed; and

(3) If the network will include ineligible health care providers and other network members, describe how fees for joining and using the network will be assessed.

(D) Ownership structure. Explain who will own each material element of the network (e.g., fiber constructed, network equipment, end user equipment). For purposes of this subsection, “ownership” includes an indefeasible right of use interest. Applicants must clearly identify the legal entity that will own each material element. Applicants must also describe any arrangements made to ensure continued use of such elements by the network members for the duration of the sustainability period.

(E) Sources of future support. Describe other sources of future funding, including fees to be paid by eligible health care providers and/or non-eligible entities.

(F) Management. Describe the management structure of the network for the duration of the sustainability period. The applicant's budget must describe how management costs will be funded.

(v) Material change to sustainability plan. A consortium that is required to file a sustainability plan must maintain its accuracy. If there is a material change to a required sustainability plan that would impact projected income or expenses by more than 20 percent or $100,000 from the previous submission, or if the applicant submits a funding request based on a new Form 462 (i.e., a new competitively bid contract), the consortium is required to re-file its sustainability plan. In the event of a material change, the applicant must provide the Administrator with the revised sustainability plan no later than the end of the relevant quarter, clearly showing (i.e., by redlining or highlighting) what has changed.

(b) [Reserved]

[78 FR 13990, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.644   Multi-year commitments.

(a) Participants in the Healthcare Connect Fund are permitted to enter into multi-year contracts for eligible expenses and may receive funding commitments from the Administrator for a period that covers up to three funding years.

(b) If a long-term contract covers a period of more than three years, the applicant may also have the contract designated as “evergreen” under §54.642(h)(4) which will allow the applicant to re-apply for a funding commitment under the contract after three years without having to undergo additional competitive bidding.

[78 FR 13991, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.645   Payment process.

(a) The Consortium Leader (or health care provider, if participating individually) must certify to the Administrator that it has paid its contribution to the vendor before the invoice can be sent to Administrator and the vendor can be paid.

(b) Before the Administrator may process and pay an invoice, both the Consortium Leader (or health care provider, if participating individually) and the vendor must certify that they have reviewed the document and that it is accurate. All invoices must be received by the Administrator within six months of the end date of the funding commitment.

[78 FR 13991, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.646   Site and service substitutions.

(a) A Consortium Leader (or health care provider, if participating individually) may request a site or service substitution if:

(1) The substitution is provided for in the contract, within the change clause, or constitutes a minor modification;

(2) The site is an eligible health care provider and the service is an eligible service under the Healthcare Connect Fund;

(3) The substitution does not violate any contract provision or state, Tribal, or local procurement laws; and

(4) The requested change is within the scope of the controlling request for services, including any applicable request for proposal used in the competitive bidding process.

(b) Support for a qualifying site and service substitution will be provided to the extent the substitution does not cause the total amount of support under the applicable funding commitment to increase.

[78 FR 13991, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.647   Data collection and reporting.

(a) Each consortium lead entity must file an annual report with the Administrator on or before September 30 for the preceding funding year, with the information and in the form specified by the Wireline Competition Bureau.

(b) Each consortium is required to file an annual report for each funding year in which it receives support from the Healthcare Connect Fund.

(c) For consortia that receive large upfront payments, the reporting requirement extends for the life of the supported facility.

[78 FR 13991, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.648   Audits and recordkeeping.

(a) Random audits. Participants shall be subject to random compliance audits and other investigations to ensure compliance with program rules and orders.

(b) Recordkeeping. (1) Participants, including Consortium Leaders and health care providers, shall maintain records to document compliance with program rules and orders for at least 5 years after the last day of service delivered in a particular funding year. Participants who receive support for long-term capital investments in facilities whose useful life extends beyond the period of the funding commitment shall maintain records for at least 5 years after the end of the useful life of the facility. Participants shall maintain asset and inventory records of supported network equipment to verify the actual location of such equipment for a period of 5 years after purchase.

(2) Vendors shall retain records related to the delivery of supported services, facilities, or equipment to document compliance with program rules and orders for at least 5 years after the last day of the delivery of supported services, equipment, or facilities in a particular funding year.

(3) Both participants and vendors shall produce such records at the request of the Commission, any auditor appointed by the Administrator or the Commission, or of any other state or federal agency with jurisdiction.

[78 FR 13991, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.649   Certifications.

For individual health care provider applicants, required certifications must be provided and signed by an officer or director of the health care provider, or other authorized employee of the health care provider. For consortium applicants, an officer, director, or other authorized employee of the Consortium Leader must sign the required certifications. Pursuant to §54.680, electronic signatures are permitted for all required certifications.

[78 FR 13992, Mar. 1, 2013]

General Provisions

§54.671   Resale.

(a) Prohibition on resale. Services purchased pursuant to universal service support mechanisms under this subpart shall not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value.

(b) Permissible fees. The prohibition on resale set forth in paragraph (a) of this section shall not prohibit a health care provider from charging normal fees for health care services, including instruction related to services purchased with support provided under this subpart.

[78 FR 13992, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.672   Duplicate support.

(a) Eligible health care providers that seek support under the Healthcare Connect Fund for telecommunications services may not also request support from the Telecommunications Program for the same services.

(b) Eligible health care providers that seek support under the Telecommunications Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund may not also request support from any other universal service program for the same expenses.

[78 FR 13992, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.675   Cap.

(a) Amount of the annual cap. The aggregate annual cap on federal universal service support for health care providers shall be $571 million per funding year, of which up to $150 million per funding year will be available to support upfront payments and multi-year commitments under the Healthcare Connect Fund.

(1) Inflation increase. In funding year 2018 and the subsequent funding years, the $571 million cap on federal universal support in the Rural Health Care Program shall be automatically increased annually to take into account increases in the rate of inflation as calculated in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(2) Increase calculation. To measure increases in the rate of inflation for the purposes of this paragraph (a), the Commission shall use the Gross Domestic Product Chain-type Price Index (GDP-CPI). To compute the annual increase as required by this paragraph (a), the percentage increase in the GDP-CPI from the previous year will be used. For instance, the annual increase in the GDP-CPI from 2017 to 2018 would be used for the 2018 funding year. The increase shall be rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent by rounding 0.05 percent and above to the next higher 0.1 percent and otherwise rounding to the next lower 0.1 percent. This percentage increase shall be added to the amount of the annual funding cap from the previous funding year. If the yearly average GDP-CPI decreases or stays the same, the annual funding cap shall remain the same as the previous year.

(3) Public notice. When the calculation of the yearly average GDP-CPI is determined, the Wireline Competition Bureau shall publish a public notice in the Federal Register within 60 days announcing any increase of the annual funding cap based on the rate of inflation.

(4) Amount of unused funds. All funds collected that are unused shall be carried forward into subsequent funding years for use in the Rural Health Care Program in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap. The Administrator shall report to the Commission, on a quarterly basis, funding that is unused from prior years of the Rural Health Care Program.

(5) Application of unused funds. On an annual basis, in the second quarter of each calendar year, all funds that are collected and that are unused from prior years shall be available for use in the next full funding year of the Rural Health Care Program in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap as described in this paragraph (a).

(b) Funding year. A funding year for purposes of the health care providers cap shall be the period July 1 through June 30.

(c) Requests. Funds shall be available as follows:

(1) Generally, funds shall be available to eligible health care providers on a first-come-first-served basis, with requests accepted beginning on the first of January prior to each funding year.

(2) For the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund, the Administrator shall implement a filing window period that treats all eligible health care providers filing within the window period as if their applications were simultaneously received.

(3) [Reserved]

(4) The deadline to submit a funding commitment request under the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund is June 30 for the funding year that begins on the previous July 1.

(d) Annual filing requirement. Health care providers shall file new funding requests for each funding year, except for health care providers who have received a multi-year funding commitment under §54.644.

(e) Long-term contracts. If health care providers enter into long-term contracts for eligible services, the Administrator shall only commit funds to cover the portion of such a long-term contract scheduled to be delivered during the funding year for which universal service support is sought, except for multi-year funding commitments as described in §54.644.

(f) Pro-rata reductions for Telecommunications Program support. The Administrator shall act in accordance with this section when a filing window period for the Telecommunications Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund, as described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, is in effect. When a filing window period described in paragraph (c)(2) of this section closes, the Administrator shall calculate the total demand for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund support submitted by all applicants during the filing window period. If the total demand during a filing window period exceeds the total remaining support available for the funding year, the Administrator shall take the following steps:

(1) The Administrator shall divide the total remaining funds available for the funding year by the total amount of Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund support requested by each applicant that has filed during the window period, to produce a pro-rata factor.

(2) The Administrator shall calculate the amount of Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund support requested by each applicant that has filed during the filing window.

(3) The Administrator shall multiply the pro-rata factor by the total dollar amount requested by each applicant filing during the window period. Administrator shall then commit funds to each applicant for Telecommunications Program and Healthcare Connect Fund support consistent with this calculation.

[78 FR 13992, Mar. 1, 2013, as amended at 83 FR 30584, June 29 2018]

§54.679   Election to offset support against annual universal service fund contribution.

(a) A service provider that contributes to the universal service support mechanisms under subpart H of this part and also provides services eligible for support under this subpart to eligible health care providers may, at the election of the contributor:

(1) Treat the amount eligible for support under this subpart as an offset against the contributor's universal service support obligation for the year in which the costs for providing eligible services were incurred; or

(2) Receive direct reimbursement from the Administrator for that amount.

(b) Service providers that are contributors shall elect in January of each year the method by which they will be reimbursed and shall remain subject to that method for the duration of the calendar year. Any support amount that is owed a service provider that fails to remit its monthly universal service contribution obligation, however, shall first be applied as an offset to that contributor's contribution obligation. Such a service provider shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the remainder of the calendar year in which it failed to remit its monthly universal service obligation. A service provider that continues to be in arrears on its universal service contribution obligations at the end of a calendar year shall remain subject to the offsetting method for the next calendar year.

(c) If a service provider providing services eligible for support under this subpart elects to treat that support amount as an offset against its universal service contribution obligation and the total amount of support owed exceeds its universal service obligation, calculated on an annual basis, the service provider shall receive a direct reimbursement in the amount of the difference. Any such reimbursement due a service provider shall be provided by the Administrator no later than the end of the first quarter of the calendar year following the year in which the costs were incurred and the offset against the contributor's universal service obligation was applied.

[78 FR 13992, Mar. 1, 2013]

§54.680   Validity of electronic signatures.

(a) For the purposes of this subpart, an electronic signature (defined by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, as an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record) has the same legal effect as a written signature.

(b) For the purposes of this subpart, an electronic record (defined by the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, as a contract or other record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means) constitutes a record.

[78 FR 13993, Mar. 1, 2013]

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