The Schools and Libraries Committee of the Universal Service Administrative Company Feb. 23 authorized the Schools and Libraries Division to begin approving internal connections requests for the 2003 funding year from applicants with discount rates as low as 70 percent, subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission.
SLD staff members advised the committee that based on their projections, they would have enough money available to fund requests from applicants with discount rates of 70 to 85 percent, which have been pending since July 2003. The SLD had previously expected that it would not have adequate funding to cover requests in the 70 percent discount band until the FCC allowed it to use an additional $420 million that had not been disbursed in previous funding years. It was not clear how quickly these applicants would begin receiving notification, assuming the FCC gives its assent. The SLD had postponed additional funding commitments for internal connections until after March 1 so that applicants could automatically qualify for an extended installation deadline of September 30, 2005.
The SLD currently projects that approximately $217 million in available 2003 funding will ultimately not be disbursed, and thus will be available to roll over for the 2005 funding year. The FCC order that accelerated the timetable for using rollover funding prohibited the SLD from reversing decisions that it had already made, and thus these funds cannot be made available to those 2003 applicants with a discount rate below 70 percent that had sought internal connections. According to an analysis of SLD data by Funds For Learning, funding requests for internal connections from applicants with discount rates ranging from 20 to 69 percent totaled only $185 million-before they were subjected to application review and presumably reduced further.