Schools and Libraries Division chief George McDonald said July 22 that the SLD currently projects that it will be able to fund 77 percent of the total of eligible internal connections requests submitted by E-rate applicants at the 90 percent discount rate in the 2002 funding year.
McDonald made his statement at the quarterly meeting of the Schools and Libraries Committee of the Universal Service Administrative Company's Board of Directors.
McDonald said the SLD's latest projection is that it will fall $212 million short of being able to fund all requests for support from applicants at the 90 percent discount rate. But, he said, the 77-percent-pro-ration figure 'is a lot better number than we were thinking at the start of the year."
The SLD had originally projected that applicants had requested $1.8 billion worth of Priority One services and that applicants at the 90 percent discount rate alone had requested $2.6 billion worth of internal connections. Under the rules of the E-rate program, the SLD first funds all eligible requests for Priority One services (telecommunications and Internet access) and then supports internal connections requests, giving priority to the neediest applicants.
McDonald said that the Federal Communications Commission had authorized the SLD to commit up to $2.6 billion (rather than $2.25 billion) in the 2001 funding year in light of the program's history of disbursements running below commitments. He said the SLD was currently using the same figure for 2002.
The SLD hopes to begin making commitments for internal connections in late September and anticipates that its projection could continue to move as it continues to review applications. 'If we can do it all," McDonald said, referring to the requests from 90-percent applicants, 'that will be great."
McDonald said that the SLD is in the process of conducting 'selective reviews" of 4,000 applications from 900 applicants that total about $2 billion.
Officials also indicated that USAC will soon report to the FCC that in the 2000 funding year (Year 3), USAC's disbursements for the schools and libraries program fell more than $500 million below commitments. Through July 19, USAC has disbursed only $777.5 million of the $2.284 billion that the SLD has committed for the 2001 funding year.