Yesterday was Digital Learning Day, and next Monday marks the opening of the FY2017 E-rate filing window. As we approach the 20th E-rate funding year, I thought it good to take a moment to contemplate the impact of the E-rate program. Below are a few measures to consider.
Schools and libraries are scrambling to get sufficient Internet bandwidth on to their campuses. It takes fast Internet connections and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi to provide students and library patrons with the bandwidth necessary for today’s web-based content and services. Fortunately, the E-rate program is helping more than ever. In Funding Year 2015, $2.447 billion dollars were disbursed to schools and libraries. This is the most support that the E-rate program has ever provided in a single funding year.
Disbursement amounts represent the actual invoices processed by USAC, not the estimates that applicants provide on their funding requests. Funding year 2015, the last full year for which we have data, is the E-rate’s biggest year and it was made possible by the FCC’s Reform of the program in 2014.
The E-rate program is distinct from other funding sources in several ways. For example, the E-rate is a discount program. This provides applicants with extra incentive to make sure that every dollar is spent wisely on what is needed most.
The E-rate also is unique in that it provides support to both public and private schools, as well as libraries. In FY2016, 5% of E-rate discounts were requested by libraries, and 6% were requested by private schools. These funds support the entire community.
The E-rate program, like the schools and libraries that it serves, is adapting to an ever changing environment. As the FY2017 E-rate filing window opens, I am grateful, more than ever, for this great resource and for the indispensable role it plays in connecting our communities to the future.