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Looking Back at Calendar Year 2018

As calendar year 2018 comes to an end, we step back to review the news and trends of the past 12-months of the E-rate funding program. 

S&L Funding Decisions Arrive Sooner
In 2018, USAC improved the timeliness of funding commitment decision letters to school and library applicants.

Receiving funding decisions earlier is important. An applicant’s success in the E-rate program depends upon numerous time-sensitive activities. The competitive bidding process, funding applications, receipt of services and all the payment-related paperwork are all tied to calendar dates and rolling deadlines. For schools and libraries, timeliness is not just a virtue, it is a requirement. USAC helps applicants when it provides them funding commitment decision letters in a timely fashion.

Major Changes in Day-to-Day Administration
This past year, USAC decided to make two significant changes to its frontline customer service operations. 

USAC opted to replace the vendor that manages its helpdesk (e.g. answering questions for applicants and service providers). USAC also determined that it would use a new vendor to handle funding commitment decisions and invoice processing. These bold changes came within a few months of the FCC’s appointment of Radha Sekar to serve as USAC’s new CEO.

Slow Going for State Networks 
Systemic funding delays threaten statewide networks. Montana, Texas, and Alabama formally express concerns.

Federal Investigations Target Fraud 
The Department of Justice announced indictments in two E-rate fraud cases.
When an applicant or service provider completes E-rate paperwork, they certify their compliance with federal regulations. Failure to comply with the rules can result in penalties and/or criminal charges. Indictments, like these two released in 2018, serve as an important reminder for program participants: the federal government takes seriously the E-rate funding rules and regulations.

FCC’s Mixed Message of Support 
The FCC states its desire to promote connectivity. Its actions send a mixed message.

The leadership at the FCC has consistently stated the need to close the digital divide within our communities. At times, actions taken by the FCC are consistent with this message. For example, the team effort to help Pribilof School District. At other times, the FCC regulations seem designed to punish applicants, such as when they wait ten or more years to send a surprise repayment notice for a disputed audit finding.
For a more in-depth look at trends within the E-rate program, download the 2018 E-rate Trends Report.
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