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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of February 20, 2020

Title 47Chapter ISubchapter BPart 64 → Subpart GG


Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 64—MISCELLANEOUS RULES RELATING TO COMMON CARRIERS


Subpart GG—National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program


Contents
§64.6201   Purpose.
§64.6203   Definitions.
§64.6205   Administration of the program.
§64.6207   Certification to receive funding.
§64.6209   Eligibility criteria.
§64.6211   Equipment distribution and related services.
§64.6213   Payments to NDBEDP certified programs.
§64.6215   Reporting requirements.
§64.6217   Complaints.
§64.6219   Whistleblower protections.

Source: 81 FR 65975, Sept. 26, 2016, unless otherwise noted.

§64.6201   Purpose.

The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) is established to support programs that distribute Equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.

§64.6203   Definitions.

For purposes of this subpart, the following definitions shall apply:

(a) Covered Services. Telecommunications service, Internet access service, and advanced communications services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services.

(b) Equipment. Hardware, software, and applications, whether separate or in combination, mainstream or specialized, needed by an individual who is deaf-blind to achieve access to Covered Services.

(c) Individual who is deaf-blind. (1) Any individual:

(i) Who has a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective lenses, or a field defect such that the peripheral diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees, or a progressive visual loss having a prognosis leading to one or both these conditions;

(ii) Who has a chronic hearing impairment so severe that most speech cannot be understood with optimum amplification, or a progressive hearing loss having a prognosis leading to this condition; and

(iii) For whom the combination of impairments described in paragraphs (c)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining a vocation.

(2) An individual's functional abilities with respect to using Covered Services in various environments shall be considered when determining whether the individual is deaf-blind under paragraphs (c)(1)(ii) and (iii) of this section.

(3) The definition in this paragraph (c) also includes any individual who, despite the inability to be measured accurately for hearing and vision loss due to cognitive or behavioral constraints, or both, can be determined through functional and performance assessment to have severe hearing and visual disabilities that cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining vocational objectives.

(d) Specialized customer premises equipment means equipment employed on the premises of a person, which is commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access to Covered Services.

(e) TRS Fund Administrator. The entity selected by the Commission to administer the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service Fund (TRS Fund) established pursuant to subpart F.

§64.6205   Administration of the program.

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau shall designate a Commission official as the NDBEDP Administrator to ensure the effective, efficient, and consistent administration of the program, determine annual funding allocations and reallocations, and review reimbursement claims to ensure that the claimed costs are consistent with the NDBEDP rules.

§64.6207   Certification to receive funding.

For each state, including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, the Commission will certify a single program as the sole entity authorized to receive reimbursement for NDBEDP activities from the TRS Fund. Such entity will have full responsibility for distributing equipment and providing related services, such as outreach, assessments, installation, and training, in that state, either directly or through collaboration, partnership, or contract with other individuals or entities in-state or out-of-state, including other NDBEDP certified programs.

(a) Eligibility for certification. Public or private entities, including, but not limited to, equipment distribution programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, assistive technology programs, schools for the deaf, blind, or deaf-blind, organizational affiliates, independent living centers, or private educational facilities, may apply to the Commission for certification.

(b) When to apply. Applications for certification shall be filed:

(1) Within 60 days after the effective date of this section;

(2) At least one year prior to the expiration of a program's certification;

(3) Within 30 days after public notice of a program's relinquishment of certification; and

(4) If an application deadline is extended or a vacancy exists for other reasons than relinquishment or expiration of a certification, within the time period specified by public notice.

(c) Qualifications. Applications shall contain sufficient detail to demonstrate the entity's ability to meet all criteria required for certification and a commitment to comply with all Commission requirements governing the NDBEDP. The Commission shall review applications and determine whether to grant certification based on the ability of an entity to meet the following qualifications, either directly or in coordination with other programs or entities, as evidenced in the application and any supplemental materials, including letters of recommendation:

(1) Expertise in the field of deaf-blindness, including familiarity with the culture and etiquette of individuals who are deaf-blind;

(2) The ability to communicate effectively with individuals who are deaf-blind (for training and other purposes), by among other things, using sign language, providing materials in Braille, ensuring that information made available online is accessible, and using other assistive technologies and methods to achieve effective communication;

(3) Administrative and financial management experience;

(4) Staffing and facilities sufficient to administer the program, including the ability to distribute equipment and provide related services to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind throughout the state, including those in remote areas;

(5) Experience with the distribution of specialized customer premises equipment, especially to individuals who are deaf-blind;

(6) Experience in training consumers on how to use Equipment and how to set up Equipment for its effective use;

(7) Familiarity with Covered Services; and,

(8) If the applicant is seeking renewal of certification, ability to provide Equipment and related services in compliance with this subpart.

(d) Conflicts of interest. (1) An applicant for certification shall disclose in its application any relationship, arrangement, or agreement with a manufacturer or provider of Equipment or related services that poses an actual or potential conflict of interest, as well as the steps the applicant will take to eliminate such actual or potential conflict or to minimize the associated risks. If an applicant learns of a potential or actual conflict while its application is pending, it must immediately disclose such conflict to the Commission. The Commission may reject an application for NDBEDP certification, or may require an applicant, as a condition of certification, to take additional steps to eliminate, or to minimize the risks associated with, an actual or potential conflict of interest, if relationships, arrangements, or agreements affecting the applicant are likely to impede its objectivity in the distribution of Equipment or its ability to comply with NDBEDP requirements.

(2) A certified entity shall disclose to the Commission any relationship, arrangement, or agreement with a manufacturer or provider of Equipment or related services that comes into being or is discovered after certification is granted and that poses an actual or potential conflict of interest, as well as the steps the entity will take to eliminate such actual or potential conflict or to minimize the associated risks, within 30 days after the entity learns or should have learned of such actual or potential conflict of interest. The Commission may suspend or revoke an NDBEDP certification or may require a certified entity, as a condition of continued certification, to take additional steps to eliminate, or to minimize the risks associated with, an actual or potential conflict of interest, if relationships, arrangements, or agreements affecting the entity are likely to impede its objectivity in the distribution of Equipment or its ability to comply with NDBEDP requirements.

(e) Certification period. Certification granted under this section shall be for a period of five years. A program may apply for renewal of its certification by filing a new application at least one year prior to the expiration of the certification period. If a certified entity is replaced prior to the expiration of the certification period, the successor entity's certification will expire on the date that the replaced entity's certification would have expired.

(f) Notification of substantive change. A certified program shall notify the Commission within 60 days of any substantive change that bears directly on its ability to meet the qualifications necessary for certification under paragraph (c) of this section.

(g) Relinquishment of certification. A program wishing to relinquish its certification before its certification expires shall electronically provide written notice of its intent to do so to the NDBEDP Administrator and the TRS Fund Administrator at least 90 days in advance, explaining the reason for such relinquishment and providing its proposed departure date. After receiving such notice, the Commission shall take such steps as may be necessary, consistent with this subpart, to ensure continuity and effective oversight of the NDBEDP for the affected state.

(h) Suspension or revocation of certification. The Commission may suspend or revoke NDBEDP certification if, after notice and an opportunity to object, the Commission determines that an entity is no longer qualified for certification. Within 30 days after being notified of a proposed suspension or revocation of certification, the reason therefor, and the applicable suspension or revocation procedures, a certified entity may present written arguments and any relevant documentation as to why suspension or revocation of certification is not warranted. Failure to respond to a notice of suspension or revocation within 30 days may result in automatic suspension or revocation of certification. A suspension of certification will remain in effect until the expiration date, if any, or until the fulfillment of conditions stated in a suspension decision. A revocation will be effective for the remaining portion of the current certification period. In the event of suspension or revocation, the Commission shall take such steps as may be necessary, consistent with this subpart, to ensure continuity and effective oversight of the NDBEDP for the affected state.

(i) [Reserved]

(j) Certification transitions. When a new entity is certified as a state's program, the previously certified entity shall:

(1) Within 30 days after the new entity is certified, and as a condition precedent to receiving payment for any reimbursement claims pending as of or after the date of certification of the successor entity,

(i) Transfer to the new entity all NDBEDP data, records, and information for the previous five years, and any Equipment remaining in inventory;

(ii) Provide notification in accessible formats about the newly-certified state program to state residents who are in the process of obtaining Equipment or related services, or who received Equipment during the previous three-year period; and

(iii) Inform the NDBEDP Administrator that such transfer and notification have been completed;

(2) Submit all reimbursement claims, reports, audits, and other required information relating to the previously certified entity's provision of Equipment and related services; and

(3) Take all other steps reasonably necessary to ensure an orderly transfer of responsibilities and uninterrupted functioning of the state program.

§64.6209   Eligibility criteria.

Before providing Equipment or related services to an individual, a certified program shall verify the individual's eligibility in accordance with this section.

(a) Verification of disability. A certified program shall require an individual applying for Equipment and related services to provide verification of disability in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section.

(1) The individual may provide an attestation from a professional with direct knowledge of the individual's disability, either to the best of the professional's knowledge or under penalty of perjury, that the applicant is deaf-blind (as defined in §64.6203(c) of this part). Such attestation shall include the attesting professional's full name, title, and contact information, including business name, address, phone number, and email address. Such attestation shall also include the basis of the attesting professional's knowledge that the individual is deaf-blind and may also include information about the individual's functional abilities to use Covered Services in various settings.

(2) The individual may provide existing documentation that the individual is deaf-blind, such as an individualized education program (IEP) or a Social Security determination letter.

(b) Verification of income eligibility. A certified program shall require an individual applying for Equipment and related services to provide verification that his or her income does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, as defined in 42 U.S.C. 9902(2), or that he or she is enrolled in a federal program with an income eligibility requirement that does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit. The NDBEDP Administrator may identify state or other federal programs with income eligibility thresholds that do not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for determining income eligibility for participation in the NDBEDP. When an applicant is not already enrolled in a qualifying low-income program, income eligibility may be verified by the certified program using appropriate and reasonable means.

(c) Prohibition against requiring employment. No certified program may require, for eligibility, that an applicant be employed or actively seeking employment.

(d) Availability of Covered Services. A certified program may require an equipment recipient to demonstrate, for eligibility, that a Covered Service that the Equipment is designed to use is available for use by the individual.

(e) Age. A certified program may not establish eligibility criteria that exclude low-income individuals who are deaf-blind of a certain age from applying for or receiving Equipment if the needs of such individuals are not being met through other available resources.

(f) Reverification. If an individual who has previously received equipment from a certified program applies to a certified program for additional Equipment or related services one year or more after the individual's income was last verified, the certified program shall re-verify an individual's income eligibility in accordance with paragraph (b) before providing new Equipment or related services. If a certified program has reason to believe that an individual's vision or hearing has improved sufficiently that the individual is no longer eligible for Equipment or related services, the certified program shall require reverification of the individual's disability in accordance with paragraph (a) before providing new Equipment or related services.

§64.6211   Equipment distribution and related services.

(a) A certified program shall:

(1) Distribute Equipment and provide related services;

(2) Permit the transfer of a recipient's account, records, and any title to and control of the distributed Equipment to another state's certified program when a recipient relocates to another state;

(3) Permit the transfer of a recipient's account, records, and any title to and control of the distributed Equipment from another state's NDBEDP certified program when a recipient relocates to the program's state;

(4) Prohibit recipients from transferring Equipment received under the NDBEDP to another person through sale or otherwise, and if it learns that an individual has unlawfully obtained, sold, or transferred Equipment, take appropriate steps to reclaim the Equipment or its worth;

(5) Include the following or a substantially similar attestation on all consumer application forms:

I certify that all information provided on this application, including information about my disability and income, is true, complete, and accurate to the best of my knowledge. I authorize program representatives to verify the information provided.

I permit information about me to be shared with my state's current and successor program managers and representatives for the administration of the program and for the delivery of equipment and services to me. I also permit information about me to be reported to the Federal Communications Commission for the administration, operation, and oversight of the program.

If I am accepted into the program, I agree to use program services solely for the purposes intended. I understand that I may not sell, give, or lend to another person any equipment provided to me by the program.

If I provide any false records or fail to comply with these or other requirements or conditions of the program, program officials may end services to me immediately. Also, if I violate these or other requirements or conditions of the program on purpose, program officials may take legal action against me.

I certify that I have read, understand, and accept these conditions to participate in iCanConnect (the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program);

(6) Conduct outreach, in accessible formats, to inform state residents about the NDBEDP, which may include the development and maintenance of a program Web site;

(7) Engage an independent auditor to conduct an annual audit, submit a copy of the annual audit to the NDBEDP Administrator, and submit to audits as deemed appropriate by the Commission or its delegated authorities;

(8) Document compliance with all Commission requirements governing the NDBEDP and provide such documentation to the Commission upon request;

(9) Retain all records associated with the distribution of Equipment and provision of related services under the NDBEDP, including records that support reimbursement claims and reports required by §§64.6213 and 64.6215 of this part, for a minimum of five years; and

(10) Comply with other applicable provisions of this section.

(b) A certified program shall not:

(1) Impose restrictions on specific brands, models or types of communications technology that recipients may receive to access Covered Services; or

(2) Disable or hinder the use of, or direct manufacturers or vendors of Equipment to disable or hinder the use of, any capabilities, functions, or features on distributed Equipment that are needed to access Covered Services;

(3) Accept any type of financial arrangement from Equipment vendors that creates improper incentives to purchase particular Equipment.

§64.6213   Payments to NDBEDP certified programs.

(a) Programs certified under the NDBEDP shall be reimbursed for the cost of Equipment that has been distributed to low-income individuals who are deaf blind and authorized related services, up to the state's funding allocation under this program as determined by the Commission or any entity authorized to act for the Commission on delegated authority.

(b) Upon certification and at the beginning of each TRS Fund year, state programs may elect to submit reimbursement claims on a monthly, quarterly, or semiannual basis;

(c) Within 30 days after the end of each reimbursement period during the TRS Fund year, each certified program must submit documentation that supports its claim for reimbursement of the reasonable costs of the following:

(1) Equipment and related expenses, including maintenance, repairs, warranties, returns, refurbishing, upgrading, and replacing Equipment distributed to consumers;

(2) Individual needs assessments;

(3) Installation of Equipment and individualized consumer training;

(4) Maintenance of an inventory of Equipment that can be loaned to consumers during periods of Equipment repair or used for other NDBEDP purposes, such as conducting individual needs assessments;

(5) Outreach efforts to inform state residents about the NDBEDP;

(6) Train-the-trainer activities and programs;

(7) Travel expenses; and

(8) Administrative costs, defined as indirect and direct costs that are not included in other cost categories of this paragraph (c) and that are necessary for the operation of a program, but not to exceed 15 percent of the certified program's funding allocation.

(d) Documentation will be provided in accordance with claim filing instructions issued by the TRS Fund Administrator. The NDBEDP Administrator and the TRS Fund Administrator may require a certified program to submit supplemental information and documentation when necessary to verify particular claims.

(e) With each request for payment, the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or other senior executive of the certified program, such as a manager or director, with first-hand knowledge of the accuracy and completeness of the claim in the request, must certify as follows:

I swear under penalty of perjury that I am (name and title), an officer of the above-named reporting entity, and that I have examined all cost data associated with equipment and related services for the claims submitted herein, and that all such data are true and an accurate statement of the business activities conducted pursuant to the NDBEDP by the above-named certified program.

§64.6215   Reporting requirements.

(a) Every six months, for the periods January through June and July through December, a certified program shall submit data to the Commission in the following categories:

(1) Each Equipment recipient's identity and other relevant characteristics;

(2) Information about the Equipment provided, including costs;

(3) Information about assessments, installation, and training, including costs;

(4) Information about local outreach undertaken, including costs; and

(5) Promptness of service.

(b) The categories of information to be reported may be supplemented by the Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, as necessary to further the purposes of the program and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. Reports are due 60 days after the end of a reporting period. The specific items of information to be reported in each category and the manner in which they are to be reported shall be set forth in instructions issued by the NDBEDP Administrator.

(c) With each report, the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or other senior executive of the certified program, such as a director or manager, with first-hand knowledge of the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in the report, must certify as follows:

I swear under penalty of perjury that I am (name and title), an officer of the above-named reporting entity, and that the entity has policies and procedures in place to ensure that recipients satisfy the NDBEDP eligibility requirements, that the entity is in compliance with the Commission's NDBEDP rules, that I have examined the foregoing reports and that all requested information has been provided, and all statements of fact are true and an accurate statement of the business activities conducted pursuant to the NDBEDP by the above-named certified program.

§64.6217   Complaints.

Complaints against NDBEDP certified programs for alleged violations of this subpart may be either informal or formal.

(a) Informal complaints. (1) An informal complaint may be transmitted to the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau by any reasonable means, such as letter, fax, telephone, TTY, email, or the Commission's online complaint filing system.

(2) Content. An informal complaint shall include the name and address of the complainant; the name of the NDBEDP certified program against whom the complaint is made; a statement of facts supporting the complainant's allegation that the NDBEDP certified program has violated or is violating section 719 of the Communications Act or the Commission's rules, or both; the specific relief or satisfaction sought by the complainant; and the complainant's preferred format or method of response to the complaint by the Commission and the NDBEDP certified program, such as by letter, fax, telephone, TTY, or email.

(3) Service. The Commission shall promptly forward any complaint meeting the requirements of this subsection to the NDBEDP certified program named in the complaint and call upon the program to satisfy or answer the complaint within the time specified by the Commission.

(b) Review and disposition of informal complaints. (1) Where it appears from the NDBEDP certified program's answer, or from other communications with the parties, that an informal complaint has been satisfied, the Commission may, in its discretion, consider the matter closed. In all other cases, the Commission shall inform the parties of its review and disposition of a complaint filed under this subpart. Where practicable, this information shall be transmitted to the complainant and NDBEDP certified program in the manner requested by the complainant.

(2) A complainant unsatisfied with the NDBEDP certified program's response to the informal complaint and the Commission's disposition of the informal complaint may file a formal complaint with the Commission pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

(c) Formal complaints. Formal complaints against an NDBEDP certified program may be filed in the form and in the manner prescribed under §§1.720 through 1.740 of this chapter. Commission staff may grant waivers of, or exceptions to, particular requirements under §§1.720 through 1.740 of this chapter for good cause shown; provided, however, that such waiver authority may not be exercised in a manner that relieves, or has the effect of relieving, a complainant of the obligation under §§1.721 and 1.722 of this chapter to allege facts which, if true, are sufficient to constitute a violation or violations of section 719 of the Communications Act or this subpart.

(d) Actions by the Commission on its own motion. The Commission may on its own motion conduct such inquiries and hold such proceedings as it may deem necessary to enforce the requirements of this subpart and section 719 of the Communications Act. The procedures to be followed by the Commission shall, unless specifically prescribed by the Communications Act and the Commission's rules, be such as in the opinion of the Commission will best serve the purposes of such inquiries and proceedings.

[81 FR 65975, Sept. 26, 2016, as amended at 83 FR 44843, Sept.4, 2018]

§64.6219   Whistleblower protections.

(a) NDBEDP certified programs shall permit, without reprisal in the form of an adverse personnel action, purchase or contract cancellation or discontinuance, eligibility disqualification, or otherwise, any current or former employee, agent, contractor, manufacturer, vendor, applicant, or recipient, to disclose to a designated official of the certified program, the NDBEDP Administrator, the TRS Fund Administrator, the Commission, or to any federal or state law enforcement entity, any known or suspected violations of the Communications Act or Commission rules, or any other activity that the reporting person reasonably believes to be unlawful, wasteful, fraudulent, or abusive, or that otherwise could result in the improper distribution of Equipment, provision of services, or billing to the TRS Fund.

(b) NDBEDP certified programs shall include these whistleblower protections with the information they provide about the program in any employee handbooks or manuals, on their Web sites, and in other appropriate publications.

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