Update: E-rate Now More Than Ever

What applicants can expect in 2017.

GUEST COLUMN | by John Harrington

CREDIT Funds For Learning 2017.pngSchools and libraries are struggling to get sufficient internet access on their campuses. It takes a fast internet connection and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi to provide students and library patrons with the bandwidth necessary for today’s learning. And thanks to the E-rate program, schools are getting the services they need. The E-rate program is distinct from other funding sources in several ways. For example, the E-rate program is a discount program. This provides applicants with extra incentives to make sure that every dollar is spent wisely. The E-rate program is also unique in that it provides support to public and private schools, as well as libraries; this means these funds support the entire community.

We’ll keep an eye on the E-rate program as President Trump recently tapped Ajit Pai to be FCC Chairman. Under his leadership, Pai wants to make closing the digital divide one of his top priorities.

So what can E-rate applicants expect in 2017?

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced that the funding cap for this year’s filing window would be $3.99 billion. This is a 1.3 percent, or $51.2 million, increase from last year’s funding cap; this increase includes a $38 million increase for category one services and an increase of $13 million increase for category two.

This means there are a lot of extra dollars, but how does this play out in reality?

In 2015, $2.51 billion was disbursed to schools and libraries. This is the most support that the E-rate program has ever provided in a single funding year. The support broke out like this:

  • $1.21 billion for data and Internet services
  • $0.96 billion for on-campus Wi-Fi networks
  • $0.34 billion for voice telephone services

CREDIT Ajit Pai FCC Chair.jpgIn 2016, more than 24,000 applicants submitted requests totaling more than $3.6 billion, and we expect a similar number of applicants and funding requests for 2017. (The deadline to submit applications is May 11, 2017.)

As always, we’ll make sure to keep an eye on the E-rate program as President Trump recently tapped Ajit Pai (pictured, left) to be FCC Chairman. Under his leadership, Pai wants to make closing the digital divide one of his top priorities.

As the E-rate filing window is now open, we can be thankful that resources like these exist and play an indispensable role in connecting our communities to the future.

John Harrington is the CEO of Funds For Learning

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