Ah, another new year.  A new decade1, as a matter of fact!  And while the passing of a year (or a group of ten of ‘em, or at least some multiple of five) often prompts us to reflect on the past, today I’d prefer to look to the future.  What does calendar year 2020 hold for us E-rate folks? It could be interesting…
 
Bonus C2 funding for FY2020
The FCC’s December Order granted all applicants a 20% uptick in their Category Two budgets for FY2020.  That’s great!  But we will still have to track budgets on a site-by-site basis.  That’s not as great.  What effect will all this have on C2 requests for FY2020?  Time will tell, but I hope to see a record year!
 
C2: Starting from scratch in FY2021
In Funding Year 2021, all applicants’ C2 budgets will reset and everyone will have a new, system-wide C2 budget cap.  Responsible applicants (this means you!) will be able to conduct technology and infrastructure planning with much more certainty this fall now that the five-year Category Two budget cycles are fixed and predictable.
 
More factors for bad actors?
The FCC’s pending NPRM regarding updates to the suspension and debarment rules could make an impact on the program in 2020 and beyond. Could giving the FCC “broader and more flexible authority to promptly remove bad actors” from the E-rate program result in better program integrity, or could it serve as a deterrent to participation? Time will tell.
 
Firewalls haven’t been “basic” for a decade
I’m expecting the comments to the FCC’s draft Eligible Services List for FY2021 to be pretty lively, particularly as it pertains to the eligibility of network security. Eligibility of security solutions was one of the most heavily commented areas of the C2 reform NPRM that didn’t make it into the final order. Fortunately, a couple of the Commissioners seem to be open to continued dialogue, and we encourage all stakeholders to share their opinions with the FCC at every opportunity!
 
Hey, did’ya hear?  It’s an election year!
Will we elect new President in 2020?  I don’t know.  I also don’t want to know whether or not you think we should.2 But although E-rate tends to carry some degree of bipartisan support, changes in administration at the FCC can alter the personality – if not the actual regulatory direction - of programs like E-rate. 
 
Your opinion turns 10
Speaking of decades, we’re gearing up for our tenth annual applicant survey!  For the past nine years, we have surveyed applicants across the country and provided the results to the FCC.  We expect our tenth year to be the biggest yet.  Gather your thoughts and stay tuned – unified voices can affect positive change in the E-rate world! 
 
What are your E-rate predictions for 2020?  Drop us a line or send us a tweet – and above all, best of luck for the next year (and the next decade!) 
 
1. I know, I know. I picked a side and went with it. Nobody likes a wishy-washy E-rate columnist.
2. You are valued. I just don’t discuss politics in polite company.