Open letter requests more funding be provided for the E-rate program; Invites educators and librarians to sign the petition in support

EDMOND, OKLA. (Nov. 15, 2011) – Funds For Learning, the nation’s largest E-rate compliance firm, in an effort to continue the technological progress made in classrooms and libraries across the country over the past 14 years, is requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provide more funding for the E-rate program.

In an open letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, John Harrington, chief executive officer of Funds For Learning, requests that the commission increase the available funding in the E-rate program. Funds For Learning is inviting E-rate stakeholders and supporters to sign the online petition before it is delivered to the FCC in early 2012. A presentation depicting the open letter to the FCC is available for viewing here.

“Classrooms across the nation are benefitting from technologies supported by E-rate funds,” said Cathy Cruzan, president of Funds For Learning. “We made this letter available for public support because the E-rate program not only affects schools and libraries, but everyone in the community. Education is crucial to improving students and their communities and when they benefit, the nation benefits.”

In the letter, Harrington explains that schools and libraries, especially those in our nation’s poorer communities rely on the E-rate program as “the financial backbone that enables them to keep their sophisticated and expensive telecommunications networks up and running.”

“The E-rate program has been hugely successful,” said Harrington. “However, with demand outpacing the available funding, it is time to consider how much more funding and regulatory support the commission should allocate to the E-rate program as the increase in funding, or lack thereof, will determine whether any schools or libraries get left behind.”

Since the program began in 1998, demand for E-rate funds has increased by 108 percent, from $2.36 billion in 1998 to $4.65 billion in 2011. However, despite the increase in demand, the available funding has remained nearly the same. From 1998 to 2009, the available E-rate funds were capped at $2.25 billion. The cap was indexed by inflation starting in 2010, resulting in $2.27 and $2.29 billion in available funds for 2010 and 2011, respectively.

“What was barely adequate funding 14 years ago is not nearly sufficient now, and tomorrow it will merely be a drop in the bucket,” said Harrington. “That is why the E-rate program desperately needs an infusion of new funds today.”

According to Harrington, the timing for the request could not be better, adding that the newly FCC designed Connect America Fund “needs a fully funded E-rate program to succeed.”

“It makes sense to take funds from the Connect America Fund and to allocate them to the E-rate program, enough to make the latter a viable solution to the student and community access part of our country’s broadband problem,” said Harrington. “Allocating funds from the Connect America Fund will not require any new taxes, making it the perfect solution to a serious problem at a very difficult time.”

Funds For Learning has posted the open letter, presentation and additional background information online, and is encouraging others to sign the online petition in support of this initiative. Funds For Learning plans to deliver the signatures to the FCC in early 2012.

“Over $4.6 billion in E-rate requests have been denied for no other reason than the program ran out of funds for the given funding year,” said Cruzan. “There are many schools that are in desperate need of technological upgrades, but are short-changed simply because of a lack of funding. The FCC has the resources needed to close this divide and we are encouraging them to do so.”

About Funds For Learning Funds For Learning, LLC, is an E-rate compliance firm specializing in guiding E-rate applicants and service providers through the complex and ever-changing E-rate regulatory process. With more than 150 combined years of experience in providing professional advice and assistance relating to the E-rate program, Funds For Learning exists to provide high-quality solutions for the needs of E-rate stakeholders. The company was established in 1997 and is headquartered in Edmond, Okla. For more information, visit www.fundsforlearning.com or phone 405-341-4140.

About E-rate The E-rate program provides discounts on certain services and products that are essential for classrooms and libraries to receive voice, video, and data communications. The amount of the discount depends on the level of poverty and location of the applicant, ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of eligible services.

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