eRate funding requests for P1 services (telecommunications and internet access) have risen steadily over the past five years, from $1.8 billion in Funding Year 2008 to $2.4 billion in Funding Year 2012. Responses to the survey would suggest that applicants believe this trend will continue, with only 16 percent of respondents estimating that their budgets for P1 services will be lower than their current level five years from now.
Wireless LAN connectivity scored highly among choices for technology initiatives over the next three years, with 42 percent of respondents placing a high emphasis on wireless projects. And while a small percentage of applicants said their infrastructures are ready for the future, respondents were clear that continued support of telephony, data, and WAN infrastructure projects is critical for applicants’ future success.
How can the eRate improve?
Another series of questions asked applicants to share their opinions about potential changes to the eRate’s rules, regulations, and processes.
• Fifty-eight percent of respondents said increasing the amount of eRate funding is of critical importance.
• In lieu of an increase in funds, over half of respondents favored either establishing a P1 discount threshold or lowering discount rates if P1 demand exceeds available funding.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said the FCC should focus on increasing the amount of funding available from the eRate. When asked about potential solutions for a scenario where P1 demand exceeds available funding, majority opinion was split between establishing a P1 threshold (similar to the P2 threshold system currently in place) or adjusting the discount matrix to lower the available discount on eligible services. Responses indicate that removing eligible services or placing limitations on the amount of funding for certain types of projects are believed to be of negligible impact.
Respondents also said simplifying the eRate forms is one of the most effective ways to improve the program. Thirty-seven percent favored the creation of a simpler “Form 471 EZ” application, and 28 percent liked the idea of a Form 471 application that was good for three years. Twenty-three percent ranked a fixed filing window dead- line as the most important goal.
The responses to these questions show that applicants overwhelmingly favor a stable, streamlined, and predictable funding source and application process.
For which services is it most important to receive eRate funding?
Two survey questions asked applicants how they would prioritize the use of funding for certain types of services, as well as which eRate funding categories are most important to their organization.
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