The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate, began to issue Year Two funding commitment letters in mid-July. After two waves of decision letters, the SLD already had matched the level of support for internal connections that it had awarded in Year One.

“This is a significant first step for Year Two of the eRate,” said SLD President Kate Moore. “Commitments will flow weekly from this point, allowing libraries and schools to move forward with their plans to bring the benefits of modern technology to their patrons and students.”

The first wave of letters, which committed more than $90 million in discounts to 6,326 applicants, was issued July 12 after audits initially had delayed the process. Wave two, which committed another $15 million to about 1,000 applicants, followed shortly thereafter on July 16.

The SLD planned to issue additional waves each Friday until all the funds were committed. According to spokewoman Jodie Pozo-Olano, letters will be issued “through August and into September” before notification is completed.

In the first wave, $74 million in discounts went to schools and libraries for telecommunications services and internet access at all discount levels. The remaining $16 million went to schools and libraries for internal connections at the 80 to 90 percent discount level. Library applicants, who make up about 7 percent of the total applications, received 20 percent of the letters in the first wave and 7 percent of the funding.

The second wave of letters extended funding for internal connections to the 70 percent discount level, with a little more than $5 million going to applicants who qualify for disocunts of 70 to 79 percent. Already, this matches the level of support that the SLD was able to make for internal connections in last year’s program and guarantees that funding will be sufficient to meet all requests of applicants who qualify for discounts of 70 percent and above.

‘Split’ decisions

New to the program this year: The SLD is sending out commitment letters to applicants as it makes each funding decision. That means you could get multiple commitment letters for the same application–one that responds to your requests for telecommunications services and internet access right away, for example, and a second letter that responds to your requests for internal connections at a later time.

Last year, to consolidate its efforts, the SLD held off on notifying applicants until it could decide on their entire applications, pending the amount of funding that was available. The SLD scrapped that idea for Year Two in order to let applicants know the status of their requests as soon as possible.

If you qualify for a low discount percentage, your first letter most likely will read, “As yet unfunded” in the line marked “Funding Status” for each Funding Request Number (FRN) that pertains to an internal connection. Don’t panic; this simply means the SLD won’t know for sure whether it will have enough money to fund these requests until later in the process. Once it’s clear how far funding will stretch, you can expect a separate letter telling you the status of these requests as well.