Status of Year Three funding commitments

Funding commitments for Year Three of the eRate are expected to begin this month, but before that can happen, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must decide on the total funding level for the year. The FCC is expected to approve at least the same $2.25 billion funding level as in Year Two—but there is an estimated $4.72 billion demand for Year Three discounts, which likely means that not all applicants will receive discounts on their internal connections this year.

The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co.—the group that administers the discounts—should begin to issue funding commitments within a week or two of the FCC’s decision. The agency hopes to have issued all Year Three commitments by the end of May, in time for the start of the program’s third year on July 1. Watch the SLD’s web site (http:// www.sl.universalservice.org) for more details.

Extra Year Two funding

Because there is an extra $250 million in Year Two funding, the SLD announced that it will consider all Year Two applications received outside the filing window. In addition, the agency said it would continue to accept applications for Year Two funds until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 31, 2000.

These extra requests for Year Two funds must be applied toward services received between July 1, 1999 and June 30, 2000, and the services must appear on a Form 470 that has been posted to the SLD’s web site for 28 days before being requested on a Form 471.

The SLD said it will consider applications for the extra Year Two funding on a first-come, first-served basis after all Year Three funding commitments have been issued.

Study points to eRate’s effectiveness

Despite some initial problems in getting it off the ground, the eRate appears to be working, according to the first-ever study of the program.

Funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the study was released by the Benton Foundation and the Center for Children and Technology. Called “The eRate in America: A Tale of Four Cities,” the study examines the eRate’s impact on four large urban districts: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

In each of the four districts, the study found that network infrastructure deployment has accelerated and internet access has significantly expanded. But the districts also reported serious challenges, including the need for resources to upgrade each school’s basic infrastructure in order to handle the demands of an advanced telecommunications network.

To view the report, go to http://www. benton.org/e-rate/pressrelease.html. n