Demand Drops to $3 Billion
The amount of E-rate funding requested, and the number of applicants participating in the program, has declined significantly. This drop appears to be fueled by the phase out of voice services and the difficult-to-use EPC system. Funds For Learning estimates that the total demand in FY2017 hovers just above $3 billion. (This estimate accounts for several large erroneous funding requests.)
The decline in demand stretches across all service categories. Fewer schools and libraries submitted applications and the total funding request amount dropped for internet access, voice services, internal connections, basic maintenance, and managed internal broadband. The funding requests for voice services were expected to be lower because of the reduction in support for these services.
It is a generally accepted fact that there is growing need for Internet access and Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries. Therefore, the slump in the number of applicants seeking E-rate support looks even more unusual.
The table below summarizes the demand for E-rate funds by service category since 2015.