Each year after the Form 471 filing window closes, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) sends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a “demand estimate” for the year. The document has always been known as the “demand estimate” but I would dispute that what USAC is sending the FCC is simply a “requested amount” for the year.
It is evident to me that most applicants do not even request Priority Two projects because they know those projects will not get funded. In FY2013 there were 25,991 distinct applicants and only 5,364 requested Priority Two solutions. Does that mean that the demand for E-rate should only be based on the 5,364 priority two applicants? No, of course not.
Funds For Learning has an E-rate reform proposal to make the distribution of funds more equitable plus provide more flexibility to schools on what they can purchase. However, I have heard comments that there are some stakeholders that are concerned that if the FFL proposal is adopted, the FCC will not know the demand for E-rate funds and will never increase the cap. To be honest, the “demand estimate” that is released each year does not measure that either, but simply tells the FCC how many applicants applied and how much they requested. Part of FFL’s proposal is for the FCC to increase the E-rate funding to at least $4.5 billion. It is important to increase the overall funding, but the increase in the funding cap is only a small part of the reform efforts.
Funds For Learning will be holding a free webinar to discuss our proposal and the need for E-rate reform on Wednesday, June 19th, 2pm EST. If you are interested in attending, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.