I come from a family of huge sports fans. No matter what we were watching, whenever someone popped in the room to ask about the score, if our team was behind, Dad only had one response: “Too much to not enough.”
Dad’s response seems right on target for describing the current state of the E-rate program. The estimate for FY2012, based on 46,838 applications, is $5.08 billion. This estimate marks only the second time in the program’s 15-year history that the total demand for discounts on eligible goods and services has exceeded $5 billion, and based on the data made public as of June 1, 2012, represents an 11% increase over the demand estimate for Funding Year 2011.
On May 18, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission announced that the funding cap for Funding Year 2012 will be set at just under $2.34 billion after adjustments for inflation. As of May 10, 2012, USAC estimates that approximately $400 million in “rollover” funds (unutilized funding commitments from prior funding years) will be available for distribution in FY2012, bringing the total available funds for FY2012 to an estimated $2.74 billion.
This means that for Funding Year 2012, demand for funding is close to twice the amount of funding projected to be available. Without regulatory intervention, the program could soon see its first year in which there are not enough funds to satisfy even the Priority 1 demand for critical telecommunications and Internet access services.
What can you do to demonstrate to the FCC the importance of the E-rate for 21st century classrooms? Funds For Learning has launched an online petition where school communities can show support for an increase in E-rate funding. In addition, the organization is conducting an online survey of E-rate applicants. See www.FundsForLearning.com for details.
Brian Stephens is the Senior Technology and Regulatory Analyst at Funds For Learning, which provides E-rate support services.