Shortly after the FCC announced its decision, the Schools and Libraries Corp. (SLC) released a list of answers to anticipated questions about what the decision will mean for your organization:
Is $1.925 billion enough to fund all of the applications the SLC has received?
We won’t know until all applications are processed and reviewed, but our initial estimates show the total requests for applications received within the 75-day window for 1998 at $2.02 billion. Our goals for allocating funds are now to assure that all approved school and library applicants see benefits of the eRate; to make certain that greatest benefits go to those in greatest need; and to maximize available funding in most equitable and manageable way.
How will the SLC now allocate these funds?
The FCC decision also re-ordered our allocation process. Approved requests for telecommunications services and internet access will be funded first. Remaining funds then will be allocated to approved requests for internal connections beginning with those from neediest applicants (for example, those with 90 percent discounts, then 80 percent, and so on).
Does this mean that if I’m not one of those 80 to 90 percent applicants, my internal connections probably won’t get funded this year?
Until all applications are completely reviewed, we won’t know precisely how far the funds will stretch, but we are not optimistic about being able to meet many applicants’ internal connections needs. Therefore, we encourage all applicants to begin considering alternate or additional sources of funding for internal connections.
How does the 18-month year work?
Originally, the 1998 program year was to have ended December 31, 1998. The FCC has now directed the SLC to extend approved 1998 telecommunications and internet access discounts through June 30, 1999, and to allow those with approved internal connections discounts to take until June 30, 1999 to expend these funds. We will begin accepting applications for the 1999 program year in late fall 1998, with funding commitments in place before the new program year begins on July 1, 1999. More details about the 18-month transition, including the process for extending contracts through June 30, will be available soon.
What are the reasons for adopting this 18-month cycle?
The FCC and SLC want the eRate program year to more closely reflect applicants’ fiscal years, which typically begin July 1. In addition, because of all the uncertainties of this initial application cycle, we wanted to give applicants sufficient time to implement 1998 projects and develop their applications for 1999. This 18-month cycle makes 1998 a transitional year; funding will be annual beginning in 1999.
Will this decision change the rules regarding retroactivity? Will discounts for qualified pre-existing contracts still be retroactive to Jan. 1, 1998, or the service start date, whichever is later?
The rules regarding retroactive discounts will not change under this new plan.
When will we know what our funding commitment will be for 1998?
The SLC is moving ahead with processing of all applications. As you know, problem resolution and program integrity review can be time-consuming. In addition, the FCC decision requires the SLC to make significant adjustments in our processing system. We hope to provide an exact schedule for funding commitments in the near future. Meanwhile, we urge applicants to continue monitoring your phone, fax, and eMail for contact from our review staff. (If you will not be reachable during some portion of the summer, we will collect alternate contact information for you via the Summer Contact data base available on the SLC web site.)
When will applications be accepted for 1999?
The SLC expects to begin accepting applications for 1999 late this fall, NOT July 1, 1998, as originally planned. Application guidance materials are being revised and updated now and will be made available over the next several months. Application packages will be distributed to school districts, library systems, and non-public schools two to four weeks in advance of the application launch date.