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Service Substitutions

A service substitution is a change in the products and/or services specified in the FCC Form 471 (Description of Services Ordered and Certification Form). In certain limited circumstances, applicants or service providers may request and be approved for service substitutions. In addition, service providers or equipment manufacturers may submit a "global" service substitution in certain instances.

Service substitutions encompass changes in the technical components (whether products or services or both) specified in the Item 21 Attachment for an FCC Form 471, Block 5 Discount Funding Request. Applicants who file service substitution requests must still comply with the deadlines for the FCC Form 486.

Criteria

Substitution of a service or product must meet the following conditions, which are specified in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules:

  • The substituted services or products have the same functionality as the services or products contained in the original proposal.
  • The substitution does not violate any contract provisions or state or local procurement laws.
  • The substitution does not result in an increase in the percentage of ineligible services or functions.
  • The requested change is within the scope of the controlling FCC Form 470, including any Requests for Proposal (RFP), for the original service.

In the event that a service substitution results in a change in the pre-discount price for the supported service, Schools and Libraries Program funding will 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. (Order in CC Dockets 96-45 and 97-21, DA 01-387, released February 14, 2001, and Third Report and Order, in CC Docket 02-6, FCC 03-323, released December 23, 2003.)

As an example of a service substitution, an applicant can be granted a request to use 87 six-port network modules instead of a different brand of 58 eight-port network modules as originally approved in the applicant's FCC Form 471.

How To Apply

Individual service substitution requests are considered minor modifications to funding requests on the original FCC Form 471. They are submitted by letter from the applicant. As a part of the letter request, the service substitution should include the following information:

  • Applicant name
  • Billed Entity Number (BEN)
  • FCC Form 471 application number
  • Funding Request Number (FRN)
  • Name of submitter
  • Title of submitter
  • Submitter phone number
  • Submitter mailing address
  • Submitter email address

The body of the service substitution request should contain this information:

  • From and To list - A listing of the products and services originally approved for which changes are requested, and a similar listing of the products and services now desired. This is sometimes described as a "from" and "to" list.
    • For changes in physical equipment, the "from" and "to" should include manufacturer, model number, description/function, cost and quantity for each line item. For changes in services, the "from" and "to" should include the description/function, and cost for each line item.
  • Original commitment amount per FRN (Note: Service substitutions are considered based on individual FRNs)
  • Revised commitment amount (if changed) - If the requested substitution involves a decrease in cost, the request should not only indicate a change in monthly recurring cost, if any, but also must provide a total pre-discount amount and the effective date of change, so that the funding commitment can be accurately adjusted.
    • If the requested substitution involves an increase in pre-discount cost of an eligible item, the request will be funded at the amount originally approved.
  • The following certifications: "I certify: that the substituted products or services have the same functionality as that contained in the original proposal, that the substitution does not violated any contract provisions or state or local procurement laws, that the substitution does not result in an increase in the percentage of ineligible services or functions, that the requested change is consistent within the scope of the establishing controlling FCC Form 470, including and any Requests for Proposal for the original services."

Since service substitutions are a minor modification to the original FCC Form 471. The certifications and representations made in the original application continue to apply.

Any cost change submitted by an applicant in a service substitution request will be considered a request for modification of the funding commitment, just as though the applicant had submitted a Funding Commitment Adjustment Request Form, FCC Form 500. Therefore, when a request that includes a cost decrease is approved, USAC will adjust the commitment for the affected funding request.

USAC will respond in writing to the service substitution request, either approving the request or indicating the reason(s) why the request cannot be approved.

USAC Review

USAC review includes an evaluation of whether "same functionality" is maintained between the original and proposed new configuration, and whether the new configuration is eligible for funding. For service substitution requests involving Internal Connections, our review may first evaluate the substitution based on the "Function" and "Product Type" for each line item in the "from" and "to" lists.

An Internal Connections service substitution request is deemed to meet FCC requirements for "same functionality" if the original and new configurations maintain consistent "Function" categories. For example, these service substitution requests meet the requirement for same functionality:

  • A network switch for a network router (Function: "data distribution")
  • A UPS for a tape backup (Function: "data protection")
  • A telephone key system for a telephone PBX (Function: "telephony")

Due to the varying ways in which technology is deployed, and the way that the "Function" categories are organized, service substitutions may also be obtained in certain cases even when the "Function" categories are not identical. For example, an access point is a wireless networking component that is categorized in the Eligible Services List (ESL) under the "Data Distribution" function. Networking cable is categorized under the "Cabling" function. Yet, since both network cabling and wireless access points can accomplish the same function of connecting network components, a service substitution to convert from one technology to the other can be approved.

Thus, USAC use of the "Function" and "Product Type" categories can assist review of service substitution requests, but maintaining the exact categories is not necessarily required.

However, USAC may only approve service substitution requests when FCC requirements for same functionality are met. For example, a service substitution request that seeks to change a funding commitment for eligible telephone components to a funding commitment for a network router cannot be approved, because core functionality is not the same, a data distribution component is not the same functionality as a voice telephone component.

Request Deadlines & Making Corrections

Service substitution requests should be submitted no sooner than receipt of a FCC Form 471 Receipt Acknowledgment Letter (RAL). Requests received prior to issuance of a RAL will be dismissed. If USAC has not completed the services portion of its review of the funding request when the substitution request is logged, then the substitution request will be included in the funding request review.

Beginning with Funding Year (FY) 2005, the Funding Commitment Decision Letter (FCDL) includes a notation that the substitution request has been incorporated. If USAC has completed the services portion of its review of the funding request, we will review and act on the substitution request separately.

A service substitution request must be received or postmarked by the last day to receive service for that FRN. In general, the last day to receive service is:

  • June 30 of the relevant funding year for recurring services, and
  • September 30 that follows the close of the funding year for non-recurring services.

However, the deadline for the receipt of non-recurring services may be extended beyond the September 30 that follows the close of the funding year.

When making corrections to a service substitution, applicants and service providers must follow the normal service substitution procedures and timelines in order to obtain pre-approval of changes. If an unapproved change is found, USAC may refuse to pay the invoice for products or services not originally requested. Furthermore, if different products or services from those approved are seen during a site visit or audit, USAC may make a commitment adjustment, and require that incorrectly disbursed funds be returned.

If the applicant discovers that products or services delivered are different from those approved on the FCC Form 471, the applicant should file a correcting service substitution even if the discovery occurs after the last day to receive service. Such a request will be considered for the case of an applicant providing correcting information. To ensure processing of a late-filed request, applicants should be sure to prominently indicate that the request is a "correcting service substitution." Even though this option for a correcting service substitution is provided, applicants are strongly encouraged to file traditional and timely service substitutions when making changes in products and services. Without the pre-approval of a timely filed service substitution, applicants and service providers risk non-payment of invoices and adverse audit findings for non-approved product and service changes. Applicants and service providers in this situation may be required to return funds previously disbursed.

“Global” Service Substitutions

A service substitution can involve a product and/or service that is being discontinued, has a model number change, or is being replaced. In this case, the manufacturer or service provider may submit notification to USAC that the product or service is being changed, along with a listing of one or more replacement products or services.

The notification to USAC must indicate that the new products or services are functionally equivalent to the product or service being replaced, and have no increase in percentage of ineligible features. USAC encourages service providers to include a publicly-issued product announcement of the discontinuation or model number change in the letter request. This method for service substitutions is only applicable when the product or service originally specified on the FCC Form 471 is no longer available, or is no longer being provided by the service provider making the request.

USAC will maintain the list of substitute products and/or services, so that invoices that specify the replacement product or service can be processed. This approach can eliminate the need for many separate applicants to request service substitutions due to changed or discontinued products. Such service substitutions will not result in a change to an applicant's funding commitment.

No specific timeline exists for substitution filings by service providers. However, service providers should submit model changes as early as possible to avoid delays in invoice processing. USAC will respond in writing to the service substitution request, either indicating whether the request can be granted or requesting additional information. Since a service provider-initiated service substitution does not reference any specific funding request no time extension for the completion of non-recurring services is provided under this approach.

Service provider-initiated service substitutions are designed to accommodate replacements that USAC can substantiate are near-identical. Replacements that cannot be substantiated as near-identical, such as the replacement of a full-featured PBX for a less functional system, cannot be accommodated with this approach. However, if a service provider is aware of similar changes among many of its customers, it can facilitate a service substitution among these customers by providing similar service substitution requests consistent with the previous sections of this document, to be submitted and signed by these applicants. Such similar requests may be sent in one mailing to USAC.

Applicants need not make any filing to USAC for a service substitution request initiated by a manufacturer or service provider. However, the change must be consistent with the establishing FCC Form 470, the RFP (if any), and state and local procurement laws. USAC recommends that service providers supply each affected applicant a copy of the approval letter, and that applicants keep this copy on file in the event of an audit.

USAC's determination that it will process invoices with the replacement configuration does not change any contractual requirement between applicants and service providers. That is, applicants are not forced to accept a modified configuration that is not anticipated by an agreement or contract with their service provider.

More Information

Requests for service substitution may be submitted by fax to (973) 599-6526. The fax transmission should include a cover sheet listing contact name, phone number and, if available, an email address.

Requests may also be submitted by email (click this hyperlink, choose "Continue" and then under "Topic Inquiry" choose "Service Substitutions") or by regular mail to:

Service Substitutions
Schools and Libraries - Correspondence Unit
30 Lanidex Plaza West
PO Box 685
Parsippany, NJ 07054-0685

False statements on a service substitution request carry the same penalties as those indicated in Block 6 of FCC Form 471. For further information, please contact the Client Service Bureau (CSB) at (888) 203-8100.