USAC CEO resigns amid frustrations involving E-rate program

Chris Henderson, CEO for the Universal Service Administrative Company, which oversees the federal E-rate program, resigned May 4, effective immediately, according to a statement.

Henderson was appointed to the USAC board of directors under Chairman Tom Wheeler and assumed the role of CEO in 2014.

Henderson was overseeing reforms mandated by the Federal Communications Commission to improve the Schools and Libraries program, but frustrations concerning these reforms have mounted since they were passed as part of the E-rate Modernization Order in 2014.

The major source of contention has been the rollout of USAC’s online E-rate Productivity Center, a new system that was intended to ease the process of filing E-rate discount applications that has, instead, resulted in significant hurdles for school and library applicants, as well as delayed funding commitments.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai penned a letter to Henderson, dated April 18, expressing disappointment about the reported difficulties and high costs of the EPC system.

Pai said the online platform, which was scheduled to be fully operational by the FY 2016 filing window, is “still not adequately functional.”

“Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that they are serious flaws in USAC’s administration of the E-rate program — flaws that relate to the process by which schools and libraries apply for E-rate funding and that are in fact preventing many schools and libraries from getting the funding,” Pai wrote.

“Despite assurances from prior FCC leadership that these problems were being addressed, they appear to have persisted, to the detriment of students, library patrons, and taxpayers across the country,” he added.

E-rate consultant Funds for Learning said the current E-rate filing window is scheduled to close on May 11, but the group believes Henderson’s resignation is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the program’s day-to-day operations.

USAC has appointed Vicki Robinson, USAC’s vice president and general counsel, to serve as acting CEO until a permanent replacement is found, according to the statement.

Emily Ann Brown covers education technology and STEM education issues for LRP Publications.

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