Ah, late December – the time every year when we start to make our resolutions for the upcoming year… and take a look back at the ones we kept (or, ahem, didn’t keep) in the past 12 months. 2011 brought some interesting twists and turns - and significant changes - to the E-rate program, which will continue to affect stakeholders for years to come. So even if you may not quite have lost that pesky 15 pounds, here is a quick look back at E-rate in 2011.

Funding Year 2011 Filing Window
The FY2011 filing window opened on January 11 and closed as scheduled on March 24. Funding Year 2011 demand was at an all-time high, with approximately 135,000 FRNs requesting just over $4.6B. The first FY2011 funding wave was issued on June 26, and the first wave including commitments for Priority 2 requests was issued on October 18.

EDU Pilot Program Recipients Announced
In early March, the FCC announced the 20 recipients of the E-rate Deployed Ubiquitously (EDU) pilot program, designed to provide discounts on wireless connectivity services to portable learning devices used outside school property. Approximately $9 million was set aside for the pilot. (more information)

Chicago Order
On March 8, the FCC granted an appeal known as the Chicago Order, which reversed previous guidance in the Third Report and Order regarding the cost-allocation of services in the Basic Maintenance funding category. With the Chicago Order, applicants are now allowed to cost-allocate BMIC services on their E-rate funding requests where appropriate, and on-site technical support contracts may be funded if applicants can demonstrate cost-effectiveness. (more information)

FY2012 Eligible Services List
The FCC published the draft Eligible Services List on June 24, and comments were due on July 25. Numerous stakeholders submitted comments in support of (or in opposition to) the proposed changes to the ESL, and the final version was published on September 28.

Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act
On August 12, the FCC issued an Order updating the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) with new requirements based on the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. The new requirements “focus on educating minors about appropriate online behavior,” including social networking and cyberbullying. The new requirements will take effect on July 1, 2012. (more information)

Funds For Learning Order
On August 22, the FCC issued the Funds For Learning Order, which authorized the disbursement of funds for all Funding Year 2010 Priority 2 requests, regardless of discount rate. This made FY2010 only the second year in program history where all compliant Priority 2 requests could be funded. As of December 29, 2011, USAC has approved approximately $32.8M in P2 requests at 76% and below, representing applicants who had not fallen above the discount threshold since Funding Year 1999. Thanks in part to the Funds For Learning Order, Funding Year 2010 has the largest amount of funds committed in any E-rate funding year, at approximately $2.93B. (more information)

Lakehills Consulting Appeal Decision
On November 28, the FCC upheld USAC’s original decision to rescind millions of dollars from a service provider involved in E-rate transactions which were found to violate competitive bidding regulations. In its appeal decision, the FCC stated that they remain “…deeply concerned about practices … that undermine the framework of the competitive bidding process.” (more information)

Queen of Peace Order
On December 7, the FCC released the Queen of Peace Order, which provides additional guidance regarding the description of services used on E-rate competitive bidding documentation (Forms 470 and/or RFPs.) Beginning with Funding Year 2013, applicants will only be allowed to reference a specific manufacturer or service provider’s “name, brand, product or service” on their bid documentation if accompanied by the phrase “or equivalent.” Bid documents which list a specific vendor’s products or services without “or equivalent” will be considered to violate competitive bidding rules. (more information)

Funds For Learning Open Letter and Petition
In November, Funds For Learning CEO John Harrington submitted an open letter to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, urging the FCC to increase the amount of available funds for E-rate projects. To date, over 1,300 signatures have been collected from E-rate applicants, service providers, parents, and community members showing their support for the E-rate program. (more information)

The Year in Fraud
Although the E-rate program enjoys relatively few instances of waste, fraud, and abuse, there are always a few cases which involve criminal action or debarment. Notable cases in 2011 included:

 

Other E-rate News
Other significant E-rate news for the year included:

 

Funds For Learning News
It has been a big year for the team at Funds For Learning! Highlights from 2011 include: