E-rate firm’s comments to the FCC emphasize increased funding, simplified processes and a solutions-minded approach to program reform
Edmond, Okla. (Sept. 19, 2013) – Funds For Learning®, the nation’s largest E-rate compliance services firm, this week shared a vision that will enable the E-rate program to have a critical impact on education for years to come. Drawing on more than 16 years of experience and its proprietary E-rate Manager® database of information, Funds For Learning presented the FCC with the following recommendations for reforming and updating the landmark funding program:
- Increase funding to $4.5 billion per year. School budgets are tight, and their computer networks are lagging. The available E-rate funding for schools has increased 5 percent since 1998. During that same time, schools have increased their Internet access and telecommunications services by 321 percent.
- Restore local decision-making and technology planning. Rather than the current FCC-mandated technology choices, schools would set their own funding priorities.
- Streamline work with one Form 471 application. Applicants would submit one funding application rather than multiple “Priority 1” and “Priority 2” applications, as they are encouraged to do today.
- Make it easier to plan with set filing window dates. Rather than waiting each year to find out when the filing window will open, the filing window dates would be set much like they are for taxes.
- Release funding sooner. The proposed system allows USAC, the fund administrator, to issue funding commitments much earlier in the year. Knowing that the funds have been committed helps schools plan to use their technology more effectively.
- Keep the program solution-minded. Technology changes much more rapidly than federal regulations. Funds For Learning urges the FCC not to set quotas on the types or quantities of technology used to connect students.
- Protect small and rural schools. Funds For Learning proposes specific safeguards for small and rural schools to ensure that they receive E-rate discounts. Today, no such safeguards exist, and many of these schools are at risk of losing out on E-rate funds.
- Preserve what works. The original discount rate matrix and eligible services framework are strong. Funds For Learning requests that the FCC keep and expand the eligible services list, and maintain the existing sliding scale of E-rate discounts. Busy applicants don’t have time to needlessly learn new forms and procedures.
“Across the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Alaska and territories that stretch halfway around the globe, E-rate funds are being put to work every day to bring our communities closer together and to equip and empower our students for success,” said John D. Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning. “This funding program is essential to our students’ futures and the nation’s global competitiveness, and we now have the opportunity to implement reform measures that ensure the program’s lasting impact on schools and libraries.”
To bring about these improvements, Funds For Learning proposed a new discount budget system. Under this system, applicants will request E-rate discounts just as they have every year, but with one important difference. Rather than the current unpredictable discount threshold denials, applicants would know ahead of time the maximum amount of discounts that they could request. This maximum would be calculated based on the applicant’s size, location and E-rate discount rate. The new system would mean 100 percent of applicants could receive discounts on critical Internal Connections equipment, as well as other eligible connectivity services.
E-rate applicants can estimate the amount of E-rate support that would be available to their entity under the Funds For Learning Proposal with a free and easy-to-use wizard on the company’s website. The wizard can be accessed here.
Rising demand for Internet access, combined with 1990’s-era regulations, has shifted the program away from its core mission of connecting students. Today, the E-rate program routinely denies funding for critical networking infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi hot spots; and on its current course, the majority of E-rate applicants will likely be denied funding for any services within two years.
Funds For Learning’s comments to the FCC may be read in their entirety here.
About Funds For Learning
Funds For Learning, LLC, is an E-rate compliance firm specializing in guiding E-rate applicants through the E-rate regulatory process and is an advocate for the use of educational technologies and student Internet access. Formed in 1997, Funds For Learning provides professional advice and assistance relating to the E-rate program to clients in all 50 states. For more information, visit www.FundsForLearning.com or phone 405-341-4140.