The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company, the group that administers the eRate, had committed nearly $800 million in Year 2 funds as of Sept. 17. As of the eighth wave of funding commitment letters, issued Aug. 27, applicants who qualify for discounts of 65 percent and above were guaranteed funding for their internal connections.

Approximately 42 percent (or $327 million) of the total committed for Year Two so far has gone to applicants requesting discounts on “priority one” services (telecommunications services and internet access), while $465 million has gone toward internal connections (or “priority two” services). Schools and libraries at the higher discount levels (80 to 90 percent) have received the largest amount of Year Two commitments to date–more than $500 million.

Planning ahead for Year Three

To meet the demand for earlier funding commitments, the SLD is contemplating a much earlier application window for Year 3 than for previous years. The third program year will probably feature a window closing date as early as mid-January (as opposed to mid-April) to permit funding commitments well in advance of its July 1, 2000 start.

Of course, this means the application window will open sooner as well. Streamlined versions of Forms 470 and 471 were awaiting OMB approval at press time. The Form 470 should be ready for use in October, and that’s when the window for Year 3 is expected to open.

More details about the overall Year 3 application cycle are expected soon. For updates, watch the SLD’s web site.

Applicants with long procurement cycles

If you’re planning to submit a Year 3 eRate application, but your state or local procurement laws requires a multi-month competitive bidding process, you can file a Year 2 Form 470 right now for services you hope to include in your Year 3 applications.

Use the Year 2 Form 470 to secure Year 3 services only if necessary. Because of limitations to the SLD’s ability to process forms, the instructions are somewhat confusing. To use the existing Form 470 to post Year 3 requests, you have to indicate in Block 1, Item (2), that the form is being filed for 07/01/1999 – 06/30/2000 (i.e., Year 2). Any later date, at least at press time, would not be accepted into the SLD’s system.

To ensure that the application is treated as a Year 3 form, you must use the Block 3, Item (15) text box to explain that the services being sought are for Year 3.

Schedule of workshops

The SLD outreach team is holding regional two-day training sessions in seven U.S. cities to inform applicants about Year 3 changes.

The first day will focus on applicant issues. Attendees will learn how the forms have been simplified and streamlined, and SLD staff will answer questions about calculating discounts, eligible services, and more. A special session for new eRate coordinators will provide background information and context for first-timers. The second day will focus on vendor issues, including billing and invoicing.

At press time, some of the dates were still tentative. Watch the SLD web site for a final schedule.

Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Boston, MA

Oct. 4-5 Minneapolis, MN

Oct. 14-15 Atlanta, GA

Oct. 19-20 Phoenix, AZ

Oct. 27-28 (tentative) Indianapolis, IN

Nov. 4-5 (tentative) Houston, TX

Nov. 15-16 (tentative) Portland, OR