The initial filing window for applications covering the third year of the eRate closed on January 19, 2000. The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the group that administers the telecommunications discounts, expects to issue funding commitments by early May, in time for the start of the program’s third year on July 1.

During the Year Three filing window, which lasted 71 days, schools and libraries across the country submitted more than 36,000 final applications, surpassing last year’s total of 32,000. In the second year that electronic filing was available via the SLD’s web site, more than 28,000 applicants electronically submitted their Form 471 applications, tripling last year’s total of just over 9,000.

“This increase of over 10 percent in the number of applications received indicates a broad demand for better technology in classrooms and libraries,” said Kate Moore, SLD president. “It’s a symbol of hope and grassroots commitment to progress.

“The tripling of requests filed online is gratifying,” she continued. “The program is more accessible and less costly to administer.”

The filing window for Year Three opened on Nov. 10, 1999 and remained open until 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Jan. 19, 2000. To give schools and libraries time to complete the two-part application process, the SLD created a 71-day window during which all completed applications would be considered as if they had arrived simultaneously.

Now that funding requests have been received, USAC will estimate the dollar amount of demand and present this information to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC can set funding up to $2.25 billion, based on the demand.

For more information, see the SLD’s web site at: http://www.sl.universalservice.org

Which states were the eRate winners?

An analysis of the funding commitments made per school-age child in the first two years of the federal eRate program shows that the District of Columbia topped the list with commitments of $190.74 per school-age child, followed by Alaska with $172.07.

The study was done by Funds For Learning, an Arlington, Va.-based eRate consulting firm, using data supplied by the SLD and 1997 Census Bureau estimates of the school-age population of each state.

Nationwide, about $70 was committed per child in the program’s first two years. The commitments are made in the form of discounts, ranging from 20 to 90 percent, on the purchase of telecommunications services, internet access, or internal connections. The numbers do not reflect funds that were actually disbursed or spent. In fact, it appears that a few hundred million dollars of the nearly $1.7 billion that was committed in the program’s first year may go either unclaimed or unspent, once all the necessary paperwork is processed.

Rounding out the list of the top 10 states, on a per-child basis, were Kentucky ($151.51 per child), New Mexico ($132.57), Tennessee ($117.50), Georgia ($117.41), New York ($107.55), Illinois ($103.85), Oklahoma ($102.20), and Mississippi ($99.81).

At the other end of the ranking, New Hampshire was at the bottom ($13 per child), with Delaware ($18.56), Nevada ($22.94), Utah ($23.95), Iowa ($28.33), Maine ($28.68), Vermont ($33.04), Colorado ($33.52), South Dakota ($33.78), Oregon ($34.64), Nebraska ($35.36), and North Dakota ($37.06).

In the second funding year, which runs from July 1999 to June 2000, the SLD was able to support all valid applications that were submitted during the initial application window. Decisions to seek eRate support can be made at the state, regional, school district, library, or school level. Because discounts are awarded on the basis of need, school districts with higher levels of poverty can qualify for larger discounts. In addition, rural areas can qualify for slightly higher discounts than urban areas can. Applicants must be able to come up with the undiscounted portion of the services and products they wish to purchase in order to actually receive the support.

Just under two-thirds of the funding commitments that have been made so far have been for internal connections projects, with the remaining one-third going to support ongoing telecommunications services and Internet access. Thus, states where schools and libraries already have a well-developed infrastructure may have qualified for less support than states where schools and libraries are only beginning to build their networks.

Figures for all of the states are available on the web site of Funds For Learning at http://www.fundsforlearning.com. For more information, contact Sara Fitzgerald at (703) 351-5070. n