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Lemanu, DOE director send letters of support on ASTCA’s petition

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga
Just like ASTCA, the pair points to Gita as the reason for missing set deadlines

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga, who is also acting governor, and Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga have sent separate letters of support on ASTCA’s petition for reconsideration filed May 30th with the US Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau.

ASTCA had requested the federal agency to reconsider its earlier denial of ASTCA’s waiver request for submission of Funding Year 2017 FCC Form 474 for the Schools and Libraries Universal Support Mechanism (E-rate) program. (See yesterday’s edition for details).

“Without a favorable ruling, ASTCA risks losing out on badly-needed revenues that it earned by meeting its service obligation,” wrote Lemanu in a June 3rd letter. “This means that American Samoa’s residents risk losing out on better and more affordable communication services in our schools, libraries, community college, and hospital.”

Lemanu said that as the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) working with the federal government on local disasters, he is fully aware of the challenges faced by the territory following Tropical Storm Gita in February 2018 in which American Samoa’s “infrastructure was devastated.”

He explained that entities such as ASDOE and ASTCA “faced an uphill battle as they worked to repair their facilities and restore services after the storm.”

According to Lemanu, the E-rate program “has made a significant difference in the quality and range of services” that ASTCA has been able to provide. He said he has met with ASTCA and ASDOE representatives to ensure that this situation — not meeting the filing deadline — does not happen again.

“The people of American Samoa have already suffered tremendous devastation at the hands of Gita, please do not make the damage even worse by preventing ASTCA from being paid for the services it rendered to our 17,000 school children,” Lemanu concluded.

In her letter, also dated June 3rd, Dr. Matagi-Tofiga explained that ASTCA missed the filing deadline because it took ASDOE and the ASG “an exceptionally long time to negotiate and pay invoices for E-rate services” following Gita.

She said ASTCA submitted the required documentation to ASDOE in a timely manner and followed up on numerous occasions, but her ASDOE staff “was unable to pay those invoices quickly enough to allow ASTCA to meet its E-rate program deadlines.”

“We were hard at work at ASDOE but, admittedly, our focus was on recovering from the aftermath of Gita,” she said, adding that with limited resources following Gita, it took ASDOE “longer than anticipated to complete the ordinary process by which we routinely validate ASTCA’s — and all other service providers — invoices.”

She said her office “particularly regrets that it lacked the resources to address ASTCA’s invoices in a more, timely manner” and that since Gita, the ASDOE has met with Lemanu and ASTCA and has “taken concrete steps to ensure” that ASTCA doesn’t miss any future E-rate deadline filings.

“Our 17,000 school children rely on ASTCA’s services to ensure that they are adequately prepared to succeed in the increasingly digital global economy. E-rate funding is essential to this end,” said Matagi-Tofiga, who acknowledged ASDOE’s “role in the delay” submission of required documents by ASTCA to FCC.