Update to Anticipated E-rate Reforms

May 7, 2014

In recent days there has been a flurry of news reports about the anticipated changes to the E-rate program and I want to bring you the latest information on this topic. The FCC is very committed to modernizing the federal E-rate program and promises to release the official Reform Order this summer (some reports have it being released at the end of June and others say it will be released before kids return to school in August). Until that Order is released, no one knows for certain what’s going to change or when those changes will occur. But based on questions asked in the FCC’s Public Notice released in February and statements made by the FCC in recent months, we have a general idea of what changes may be coming.

First, no changes will be made to the program for Funding Year 2014. The only difference you will see is that Form 471 applications containing a broadband funding request will be reviewed and approved more quickly.

In terms of what services will be eligible and not eligible in the future, we know the FCC has stated their desire to transition the program from one that supports legacy services such as voice and paging to one that focuses on broadband and Internet services and equipment. Based on a literal reading of those statements, I believe we can expect that voice services, including cellular services, will become ineligible at some point in the future (I doubt they will make this drastic change for FY 2015 in order to give schools and libraries time to prepare their budgets). Hosted e-mail and paging services also will likely become ineligible.

While the FCC’s NPRM from last summer asked whether webhosting should continue to be a supported service, there have been almost no recent statements made about the eligibility of webhosting, either publicly or within the Public Notice issued in February, so I don’t have a sense of whether that service will continue to be funded or not.

The FCC is very focused on ensuring that there is high speed broadband to every school building, and quality WIFI in every classroom. To make this happen, they are considering several different proposals that would provide all applicants (not just those with 90% discounts) with the ability to access internal connections equipment funding on a regular basis. Eligible equipment will likely only include WIFI, internal wiring, and equipment needed to support the broadband connections.

I realize that consideration of changes to an existing funding source are unsettling. I promise to keep you updated as E-rate 2.0 is rolled out and provide you with extensive training and outreach to ensure you understand what the changes are included and when they will take effect so you can begin to prepare your budgets as well as plan to take advantage of the additional access to internal connections funding.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at jtschell@comcast.net.

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator

717-730-7133 – o
717-730-9060 – f

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