The Schools and Libraries Division told the Federal Communications Commission Feb. 2 that schools and libraries who filed their E-rate applications by the close of the Year 3 filing window had requested $4.72 billion worth of support — more than the amount requested in the first two years combined.
The SLD said the number was calculated after a review of the 36,000 Form 471 applications that had been submitted before the end of the window on Jan. 19. In the past, the SLD has relied on a statistical projection to estimate demand for the FCC. However, the SLD was unable to review the applications for potential duplications between applications filed online and on-paper, a fact that contributed to a projection last year that turned out to be significantly higher that the commitments that were actually approved.
The FCC will now use the projection to set the size of the E-rate pot for the third funding year, which runs from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001. Currently, the program is capped at $2.25 billion a year.
If numbers released by the SLD hold up, and are not substantially adjusted or reduced following the division's review of the requests, virtually all of the available money would go to support requests for telecommunications services and Internet access. The SLD said $1.073 billion was requested for telecommunications services, and $363 million for Internet access leaving only $814 million available for internal connections. According to the SLD's figures, applicants with discount rates of 90 percent requested $854 million worth of support, more than the amount that was left.
In the program's first funding year, the SLD supported requests for internal connections only from applicants with discount rates of 70 percent or higher. However, in the second year, the SLD supported all eligible requests for internal connections support, no matter what the applicant's discount rate.
There is, in fact, money left over from both years and its disposition is now under review by the FCC. The FCC has already moved to use some of the first-year funds to reduce the current level of collections from telecommunications carriers.
If the SLD's numbers hold up, it would mean that applicants requested roughly twice the level of support for telecommunications services and Internet access in Year 3 as they did in Year 2.