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2015 E-rate Year in Review

2015 was a year of many firsts: the first Form 471 filing window of the reformed E-rate; the first Wave #001 funding for internal connections; USAC’s first attempt at the EPC system, and many other firsts. Below is Funds For Learning’s recap of calendar year 2015.

January 2015 Highlights

  • The FY2015 filing window opens right on the heels of the Dec. 11, 2014 FCC vote to increase the annual funding cap. [January 14]
  • Applicants get to learn the new Form 470 and new Form 471. [On-going throughout January.]
  • The FCC votes to define Broadband as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. [January 29]

See all January 2015 news >>

February 2015 Highlights

  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan releases a video blog reminding school administrators of the FY2015 E-rate filing deadlines. [February 12]
  • The number of 470s submitted seeking internal connections in FY2015 sets an all-time record, nearly doubling the number filed the prior year. [February 27]

See all February 2015 news >>

March 2015 Highlights

  • Applicants ask for more time to complete their Form 471 application. 89% of applicants support an extension of the FY2015 filing deadline. [March 10]
  • USAC and the FCC takes the unprecedented step of extending the filing window deadline by three weeks. The new deadline is April 16. [March 12]

See all March 2015 news >>

April 2015 Highlights

  • The FCC formally asks for feedback on four requests to reconsider aspects of the E-rate Modernization. (Funds For Learning submits comments requesting that telephone service be fully reinstated.) [April 8]
  • The FY2015 filing window closes, with schools and libraries requesting just shy of $3.9 billion, the maximum funding cap set for FY2015 by the FCC. [April 16]
  • Charles Benton, founder of the Benton Foundation, and a champion for public communications loses his battle with cancer. Mr. Benton was instrumental in shaping the E-rate program. [April 29]

See all April 2015 news >>

May 2015 Highlights

  • The FCC officially authorizes USAC to fund all FY2015 funding requests. This was the third time in the history of the program that all requests were funded. Previous years were FY1999 and FY2010. [May 8]
  • FCC Chairman Wheeler emphasizes that the E-rate continues to be a top priority for the FCC. [May 13]
  • USAC releases the first funding commitments of FY2015 in record time. After a two-year hiatus, support for internal connections is restored, and, for the first time, internal connections are included in a funding year’s first wave of decision letters. [May 21]

See all May 2015 news >>

June 2015 Highlights

  • USAC announces the imminent launch of its EPC online portal. [June 5]
  • Senator Angus King and Senator Shelley Moore Capito introduce the Digital Learning Equity Act in the U.S. Senate. [June 18]

See all June 2015 news >>

July 2015 Highlights

  • USAC rolls out its EPC system and launches a new Form 470. [July 9]
  • President Obama announces the ConnectHome initiative to close the digital gaps that exist in communities, such as the Homework Gap highlighted by FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel. [July 15]

See all July 2015 news >>

August 2015 Highlights

  • The FCC seeks comments regarding the ubiquity of access to broadband Internet access and telecommunications services for all Americans. [August 7]
  • The FCC asks for feedback regarding the type and level of detail to be included in the FY2016 Form 471 application. [August 11]

See all August 2015 news >>

September 2015 Highlights

  • The FCC releases the FY2016 Eligible Services list. For the first time, the list allows for the purchase of self-provisioned wide area networks and fiber optic modulating electronics using Category 1 discounts. [September 11]
  • Results of a nationwide survey of applicants are submitted to the FCC. 86% of applicants are deeply concerned about the phase-down of voice services; 65% describe Wi-Fi as mission critical; and 67% think the Category 2 budget cap is insufficient to meet their needs. [September 11]
  • USAC sets an all-time speed record, issuing nearly $2 billion in funding commitments by September. [September 24]

See all September 2015 news >>

October 2015 Highlights

  • The first of eight fall training events kicks-off in Washington, DC. [October 2]
  • USAC acknowledges the failings of the EPC system and commits millions of dollars in additional funds to fix it. [October 26]
  • The FCC submits a new Form 471 to the OMB for approval, including additional data requirements for applicants. [October 30]

See all October 2015 news >>

November 2015 Highlights

  • USAC sets another speed record, authorizing FY2015 disbursements totaling $150.7 million. This represents the most savings that applicants have ever realized by mid-November. [November 13]
  • Applicants find many more shortcomings in EPC, including an undocumented 2,000 character limitation that locks applicant forms from further editing.  [November 20]

See all November 2015 news >>

December 2015 Highlights

  • USAC launches FCC Form 498 in the EPC system. This form is required for applicants who plan to request direct reimbursement payments beginning July 1, 2016. [December 2]
  • Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act and the U.S. Department of Education releases the 2016 National Education Technology Plan. [December 11]
  • USAC ends the year with another first, announcing “not earlier than” dates for the FY2016 Form 471 filing window. The window will open no earlier than January 20, 2016, and close no earlier than March 31, 2016. Echoing a similar January 1998 statement about the opening of the first filing window, USAC cited its on-going EPC development work as the reason for its lack of specificity.
  • USAC estimates a $1.9 billion rollover of unused discounts from prior years, bringing the total available funding for FY2016 to $5.8 billion.
  • The New York City Department of Education pays a $3 million fine and relinquishes $1.5 billion in funding requests.

See all December 2015 news >>


**Updated December 29, 2015 to reflect most recent December activity.

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