USAC has held applicant training in the fall in Minneapolis for the last several years.  It has been hosted at the Hilton near the Mall of America.  My co-worker Alfred and I attended the training this year.  We arrived the night before the training and had time to check out the mall.  The hotel provides a free shuttle to and from the mall.  We rode the shuttle and were coincidentally joined by Eric Flock, Manager of PIA Operations at USAC.

Early the next morning I had a chance to chit-chat with Mr. Flock about the previous evening’s activities.  I shared that Alfred and I had dinner at Famous Dave’s barbeque (which I highly recommend by the way).  He said that he went to see the movie Gravity during his mall visit.  I asked him what he thought of it, since it seemed to be getting such great reviews.  His response: “It was okay.  There was a lot of [Sandra Bullock’s character] floating in space.”

Mr. Flock gave a couple of presentations during the training, including one on the services that are eligible for E-rate funding.  As you may know, this is the first year in the history of E-rate that the demand for Priority 1 services alone has exceeded the funds allocated for E-rate (before rollover dollars are applied).  This means that if there is any funding for Priority 2 services, it will be extremely limited.  I was reflecting on this as I listened to Mr. Flock’s presentation.  The original intent of the E-rate program has been to get schools connected with voice and data communications.  But due to a variety of factors, applicants are getting left “floating in space”, wondering if they will ever get E-rate support to get connected.

The Funds for Learning E-rate 2.0 Proposal makes a number of recommendations that will once again make it possible to connect schools through E-rate.  Depending on the results of the recent NPRM, the program may change significantly.  We anxiously await the changes and hope that the program will once again be successful at connecting schools across the country.