The reformed E-rate program has the potential to provide a record amount of support to schools and libraries this year; however, receiving that support requires use of the new EPC filing system. Do not delay. Start your application today.
E-rate applicants have been given extra time to submit their 2016 E-rate funding requests. I urge them not to squander this opportunity. The need for E-rate funding has never been more apparent. Just yesterday, the Washington Post highlighted the significance of having fast Internet connections for students. E-rate discounts can help deliver those connections, but the funding requires complex applications which are due soon.
Last week, USAC and the FCC took the prudent step of extending the deadline for 2016 E-rate funding requests. Schools now have 27 extra days. Libraries and consortia have 83 extra days. This extra time is needed in order to successfully prepare and submit applications using the EPC system.
But then this happened. Last week, the average daily count of Form 471 applications dropped. For ten weeks, the daily count had been increasing. Last week it decreased.
When USAC reset the FY2016 play clock it did so for one reason: EPC. The new filing system is much harder to use than the old filing system. It far more complicated, far less intuitive and much less forgiving. EPC is buggy, inconsistent, and slow. In its defense, USAC is doing what it can to rectify the situation. The staff at USAC are working around the clock to patch the system and they are doing a tremendous amount to assist applicants, even going so far as helping with data entry. USAC got us into this mess and I respect the fact that they are doing their part to try and get us out of it.
Applicants need to do their part, too. They have been given extra time because they need it. The deadline extension should not be seen as an opportunity to put off preparing the Form 471 applications. Applicants who wait do so at their own peril. More importantly, they do so at the risk of every student and library patron who benefits from a high-speed connection to the Internet.
Even with the extra time, applicants who have not yet submitted their applications need to start now if they are going to have their funding requests submitted “in window.” The positive impact that the E-rate program can have in communities and neighborhoods across our country has never been greater. USAC has given applicants more time to use the EPC system. Applicants need to use their extra E-rate time wisely. If you have not yet done so, please start your E-rate application immediately.