The Federal Communications Commission will formally meet June 13 to consider modifying the section of its regulations that relate to what it does with E-rate funds that are committed but not disbursed.
Since the E-rate program started, millions of dollars worth of support have been committed, but not disbursed each year. For the 2000 funding year, the Universal Service Administrative Company recently reported, $543.7 million worth of committed funds were never disbursed.
In the program's first year, the FCC used these undisbursed dollars to reduce the contributions that carriers had to make to the Universal Service Fund. But as part of its recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the schools and libraries program, it solicited comments on whether these funds should be rolled over for use in a future funding year.
Schools and library advocates strongly urged the Commission to make the funds available, while the telecommunications carriers generally asked the Commission to use the funds to reduce the contributions they had to make to the fund.
It was not clear what position the Commission would take. However, the Schools and Libraries Division has continued to review internal connections requests for the 2002 funding year from applicants qualifying for a discount rate of as low as 80 percent, signaling that the SLD may be permitted to commit substantially more than the $2.25 billion it has previously had at its disposal. For the 2001 funding year, the SLD has committed $2.301 billion through the end of May, reflecting an assumption that not all of that amount will be claimed by schools and libraries.