In the FCC's first public response related to hurricane recovery efforts affecting the E-rate program, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin made the following statement:
"We will use the E-rate Program to help reconnect schools and libraries throughout the region. We will open a new Funding Year 2005 filing window for schools and libraries affected by the hurricane. We will treat schools and libraries struck by the hurricane at the highest level of priority (90%) for Funding Years 2005 and 2006. The Commission can authorize $96 million in E-rate funds for the approximately 600 schools and libraries in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hit by the hurricane. We will also allow schools and libraries serving evacuees to amend their Funding Year 2005 applications to account for the unexpected increase in population."
The amount authorized ($96 Million) by the FCC is approximately 4 percent of the annual allocation of $2.25 Billion. It is still unclear if the authorized funds will come from Funding Year 2005, Funding Year 2006, or if it will come from unutilized funds from prior funding years. The average amount of benefit to each of the approximate 600 schools and libraries will be $160,000. It is also unknown if there will be a funding cap for each of the affected applicants. There may be confusion about the amount of assistance available as a press release issued by the FCC indicates that $132 Million will be available to support schools and libraries by the hurricane.
Details about the new filing window for schools and libraries affected by hurricane will be announced by officials in advance of the opening of the window. Additional details are currently unkown about how the application of standard E-rate requirements such as the 2 out of 5 rule, CIPA compliance, payment paperwork deadlines, document retention, and Form 470/471 certifications may be different for the applicants and service providers affected by the storm.
The vast majority of E-rate applicants will not be affected by this allocation. Speculation has recently surfaced about the FCCs delay in approving USAC's recommendation to issue Funding Year 2005 Internal Connections commitments for applicants at or above the 87% discount rate. It is not clear if the delay is related to Hurricane Katrina.