As schools and libraries raced to complete their 2004 E-rate applications Feb. 4, the Universal Service Administrative Company reported that it currently has $100 million available to roll over for the 2004 E-rate funding year. That figure is in addition to the $420 million that has been rolled over from previous years to support additional funding commitments for 2003.
The figure for 2004 could grow larger with the passage of time. USAC is currently retaining $162 million to cover 496 potentially fundable applications for 2002. It also is retaining a $456 million contingency for pending appeals and invoice deadline extension requests. It appears that those funds would be available to support the requests of several applicants who were recently permitted to submit new Form 471 applications for the 2002 funding year, as well as other pending appeals.
USAC is also still planning to disburse another $420 million worth of discounts on previously approved funding commitments. As of February 3, according to data compiled by Funds For Learning, only 62 percent of approved 2002 commitments for telecommunications services had been disbursed and only 65.5 percent of approved commitments for Internet access. Most of those forms were due at the SLD by late October 2003. Only 50.6 percent of approved commitments for internal connections have been disbursed, but most of those forms were not due until the end of January 2004 and typically take longer to process.
The FCC had planned to roll over undisbursed funds for the first time for the 2004 filing year, but decided in December to accelerate that date. The SLD is approving eligible requests for internal connections from applicants with a discount rate of 85 percent or higher. Internal connections requests from applicants between 70 and 84 percent are still pending.
USAC's quarterly report to the FCC provided this additional information about the workings of the E-rate program:
. The SLD has made some progress over the past quarter in its review of very old applications. The number of applications from the 2001 funding year that were still under review was cut from 112 to 20 as of December 30, 2003, and the number of applications pending from 2002 was cut from 1,378 to 496.
. E-rate "early birds" managed to file more than 6,654 Form 471 applications for 2004 by December 31, 2003.
. USAC said it will add $2.1 million to its budget this year to cover additional beneficiary audits required by the FCC's Office of Inspector General and another $750,000 to implement FCC-mandated changes in the schools and libraries support mechanism.
. USAC is budgeting an additional $1.095 million this year to make required adjustments in its financial systems, and to "further disaster recovery planning and systems security hardening."