The Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) officially announced to the FCC on July 13 that it has identified additional monies to fund FY 2010 E-rate Priority 2 (internal connections and basic maintenance of internal connections) requests at the 80 percent discount level. Schools and libraries that are entitled to 80 percent E-rate discounts serve some of the country's most financially strapped communities. This reversal resulted from inquiries that the FCC made to USAC after Funds for Learning, a leading E-rate compliance services firm, filed a petition with the FCC strongly objecting to USAC's recommendation to cut off funding for 2010 at 81 percent.
"These schools are not quite as impoverished as those who qualify for 90 percent discounts, but they are still relatively poor neighborhoods, and this is a great opportunity for the schools," John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning says. He adds that this will help 3,883 school buildings and 2.16 million students. At these schools at the 80 percent level, 50 to 74 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
On January 24, 2011, the USAC Schools and Libraries Committee adopted a resolution that would have set the final Priority 2 discount threshold for FY 2010 at 81 percent.
Believing that USAC's decision not to fund any requests at the 80 percent discount level and below for FY 2010 was premature and potentially detrimental to some of the nation's most impoverished communities, Funds for Learning petitioned the FCC, urging it to reject USAC's recommendation. Funds for Learning highlighted the fact that the demand at the 80 percent discount for FY 2010 Priority 2 funds stood at approximately $279.43 million, while $400 million in unused funds were immediately available to fund those requests.
In response, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on Funds for Learning's petition. After it closed with no public comment, the FCC was notified that USAC did indeed have funds for the 80 percent level.
"The E-rate program was designed to help make advanced telecommunications and information services affordable for all of our nation's schools and libraries, not just a small fraction of them," Cathy Cruzan, president of Funds for Learning says. "There are many needy schools and libraries that are going to benefit from this announcement."