Requests snowball for E-Rate
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jul 25, 2001
USAC: Schools and Libraries program
Schools and libraries that have applied for federal funds to help subsidize
telecommunications services and Internet access soon will receive letters
saying whether they've been approved.
However, most applicants seeking money won't get it because competition
for limited E-Rate funds has risen sharply in the fourth year of the program.
E-Rate, created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, provides
schools and libraries with discounts of 20 percent to 90 percent for Internet
access and telecommunications infrastructure and for internal connections.
The program, which earmarks up to $2.25 billion annually the maximum set
by the Federal Communications Commission is funded by the telecommunications
industry through taxes on individual telephone bills.
The Universal Service Administrative Co. (www.sl.universalservice.org), a private, nonprofit organization established
by the FCC to administer E-Rate, soon will release an initial wave of $395
million for the 2001-2002 program. As in the past, E-Rate funds will be
released in several waves throughout the year.
More than 17,800 letters announcing funding commitments were to be mailed
July 23, along with another 6,000 letters denying requests because of insufficient
funds. This means that more than 70 percent of the applications have been
processed in this wave.
More than 30,000 applications, requesting $5.19 billion, were submitted
for this year's program. That request is larger than the first two program
years combined and nearly $500 million more than requested in the third
year of the program.
USAC spokesman Mel Blackwell said that as the E-Rate program has become
better known and schools and libraries have seen the benefits from the program's
first three years, institutions are asking for more money.
Of $5.19 billion requested, $1.7 billion was for telecommunications
services and Internet access, while $3.49 billion was for internal connections.
Blackwell said they'll consider only requests from the neediest schools
for internal connections. "Neediest" is defined as schools where 50 percent
or more of the students receive school lunch subsidies.
Blackwell said that it is up to the FCC to raise the cap on the $2.25
billion allocated each year to the program.