E-Rate News Empowering Education Through Technology

The Clock is Ticking...

The FCC released the 2012 Eligible Services List this morning which essentially "starts the clock" on the filing window for 2012/2013. Read More

The Certified E-Rate Management Professional (CEMP)

(Washington, D.C., September 27, 2011)

Three members of CSM's E-Rate Compliance Management Team sat for and passed the certification exam for E-Rate Management Professionals.

The rigorous exam and pre-qualification guidelines were developed and administered by the E-Rate Management Professionals Association (www.e-mpa.org). We have been active members of the organization since 2009 and are thrilled to be three of a very select group of newly certified E-Rate Management Professionals. You can be assured that every member of our team is proud to participate in the organization and abide by its demanding Code of Ethics as we perform work on behalf of our clients and the entire program.

Maintaining CEMP status will require annual continuing education credit verification and substantive verification of our ongoing commitment to exemplary service in our field.

Be sure to congratulate:

  • Cathy Benham, Director of E-Rate Compliance Services
  • Kim Friends, Vice-President of E-Rate Compliance Services
  • Michelle Harken, Director of E-Rate Compliance Services

Congressman Markey Introduces E-rate 2.0 Act

(February 11, 2010)

    This week Congressman Markey (D-MA) introduced the "E-rate 2.0 Act" which would expand the eligible beneficiaries of program dollars. Congressman Markey was an original author of the E-rate program in 1996 and continues to be a prominent supporter. As he introduced the bill he stated, "...over the past 14 years, the E-rate program has helped schools around the country connect to the Internet and other telecommunications services, enabling students to access a vast universe of educational information, communicate with other students around the world, and capitalize on opportunities that otherwise would be out of reach...."

The bill would direct the FCC to implement three pilot programs:

  • The first pilot program narrows the digital divide through the distribution of vouchers to enable low-income students to purchase residential broadband service.
  • The second utilizes a competitive grant program to extend funding for broadband equipment and services to selected community colleges and head start facilities that best demonstrate need and incorporation of broadband use in their educational mission.
  • The third enables certain E-Rate applicants serving particularly low-income students to apply for significantly discounted services and technologies for the use of e-books.

The bill further calls for application reform, such as:

  • Decreasing funding request application frequency from once per year to once every three years for Priority One services.
  • Web-based communications with applicants.
  • Online applications and a general reduction in paper-based communications

The bill also would provide for an inflation adjustment to the current $2.25 billion cap on the E-Rate program, so funding would increase with inflation.

The FCC has the authority to increase the E-rate funding cap without asking for Congressional approval and are already considering ways to streamline the application process, however, the expansion of the program participants would have to be enacted by Congress in order for the FCC to act.

This information is provided courtesy of our colleagues at Funds For Learning.
The proposed bill can be viewed here.

Rockefeller Seeks FCC Rule Change To Increase E-Rate Program Funding

    Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Oct. 9 sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission seeking more funds to connect schools and libraries to the internet.

Specifically, Rockefeller asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to “expeditiously adjust” the commission's rules to address the inflationary decreases in funding available for the program.

Rockefeller was an original sponsor of the amendment to the 1996 Telecommunications Act that first established the schools and libraries program as part of the universal service fund. The program is commonly known as the E-Rate program.

"The E-Rate program has been the singularly most effective and powerful of all of the [FCC's] universal service programs at supporting the expansion of broadband service," Rockefeller wrote in his letter.

However, when the commission first implemented its rules governing the E-Rate program, it capped the funds available annually at $2.25 billion, Rockefeller said.

"I am concerned that more than a decade later the strength of this program has been reduced by the failure of the agency to adjust its rules to accommodate the impact of inflation," the letter stated. "Taking into consideration growth in the consumer price index, the cap that was put in place in July 1997 has an equivalent value in August 2009 of $1.68 billion," he stated.

This situation has serious consequences, Rockefeller wrote. While each year students' need for broadband educational opportunities increases, the real dollar value of the E-Rate program decreases, he stated.

It also has a detrimental effect on those who use public libraries for internet access, including an increasing number of low-income, elderly, and unemployed citizens, the letter stated.

Rockefeller said he knew that the commission understood the great importance of broadband in this country. "As a result, I ask that you expeditiously adjust commission rules to address the toll that inflation has taken on this important program," he wrote.

The schools and libraries program of the universal service fund is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the FCC. It provides discounts that allow most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

According to USAC, the schools and libraries program disbursed an estimated $1.8 billion in funding year 2008.

USAC’s Training "Road Show" a HUGE success!

    USAC’s annual E-Rate training kicked off with a bang last week in Washington, DC. The training this year is structured to allow the participants an opportunity to pick and choose different topics of discussion that are of particular interest to them, rather than the traditional format of "one size fits all".

Beginners are given a perfectly balanced presentation allowing them insight to the basic cornerstones of the program, eligible services, discount calculations, basic PIA processes and it even includes a tour of USAC’s website! I gotta say, a personalized tour of USAC’s site would be beneficial for anyone, regardless of their experience level. There is a wealth of information available on that site…if you know where to look.

For more experienced participants, there are two tracks you might consider following; Special Issues and Advanced Track. In either case, the information presented is insightful and engaging and far from 'same ole, same ole'.

There was some concern when the training was reduced to one, 8 hour day – how in the world could the team cover EVERYTHING in 8 hours? Well, they do, trust me. This is accomplished solely by the fact that the senior staff presenting the information are working ALL day, running back and forth from track to track and room to room, all the while directing traffic and keeping everyone moving along. Whew…they gotta be tired at the end of the day.

So, CSM would like to extend their congratulations to USAC’s Schools and Libraries Division…we appreciate what you’ve done and continue to do for the participants throughout the Country. Thank you.

FCC Directs USAC to Carry Forward $900 Million to Schools and Libraries Program Funding Year 2009

    On July 31, 2009, the FCC issued a Public Notice in which it announced that $900 million in unused Schools and Libraries funds will be carried forward from previous funding years. As a result of carrying forward this funding, disbursements to schools and libraries in Funding Year 2009 will increase and support will be provided in excess of the annual $2.25 billion cap.

What this means (in laymen’s terms) is that the funding cap for the program in FY2009/2010 (Y12) will be $3.15B available for funding on eligible products and services across all four categories, both Priority One and Priority Two. Given the fact that there were almost $4B in applications submitted during Y12’s cycle (see FY2009 Demand Estimate), the $3.15B still isn’t enough to fund ALL of the viable applications that are pending, but it certainly closes the gap. CSM’s conservative estimate of a low Priority Two funding threshold for Y12 would be…drum roll, please…approximately 83%*. We’ll all just have to wait and see…watch this space.

*not intended as a definitive threshold determination. The final funding threshold for Priority Two applications will be set by the FCC once the pending applications have been cleared through the various levels of review and all ineligible and/or duplicative applications have been adjusted accordingly. Typically, a final threshold determination is not established much before the close of the applicable funding year (in this case, near to June 30, 2010). That being said, the final funding threshold for FY 2008/2009 (Y11) STILL has not been established, so in the end…all bets are off.

FCC chair touts broadband as top priority

By Troy Wolverton

The Federal Communications Commission's top "strategic" priority will be to encourage greater availability and adoption of broadband Internet access, the agency's new chairman, Julius Genachowski, said in a meeting Monday with editors and reporters at the Mercury News.

The agency is still studying the issue and examining the best ways to implement the new "national broadband plan," he said. But the effort is an attempt to address the situation he inherited, where, thanks to the policies "adopted over the last decade," the United States is falling behind other countries.

"There should have been a national broadband plan years ago," he said. "There wasn't."

Genachowski only took office in late June, but already the agency has appeared more activist that it did under his predecessor, Kevin Martin. In June, the FCC started examining the exclusive deals by which phones are tied to particular carriers. Last week, the agency opened an inquiry into why Apple rejected Google Voice, a telephone service application, for its iPhone application store.

Although issues surrounding mobile telephony and competition in general are among Genachowski's priorities, they may eventually take a second seat to those surrounding broadband adoption.

Although broadband is a "core" infrastructure for the country, Genachowski suggested that it didn't get enough attention from the previous administration. He noted that some 40 percent of U.S. households don't currently have broadband access. And that rate rises to 60 percent among some sectors of the population, such as minorities and low-income or rural citizens.

But it's not just that adoption rates aren't as high as they should be. Transmission speeds are too slow, and there may not be enough competition, he said. Meanwhile, he suggested that broadband is too expensive for some consumers and the government hasn't done enough to tout its benefits.

"Where we are today is a consequence of the policies that were adopted for the last decade," he said.

The one area where broadband adoption has been an outright success has been the government's e-rate program, whose goal is to connect all schools and libraries to the Internet, he said. Under that program, schools and libraries are able to get low-cost broadband connections that are subsidized by the federally managed universal service fund.

But while Genachowski touted the e-rate program as a success, he said it was only one potential piece in solving the nation's broadband issues. Genachowski didn't have clear answers about what other steps the agency would take. But the first step, he said repeatedly, was that the agency needed to gather data on them and make the data more accessible both inside and outside the agency.

Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-920-5021. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/troywolv.

USAC Provides Demand Estimate for Funding Year 2009 to FCC

    On March 10, 2009, the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) reported to the Federal Communications Commission that $3.99 billion in requested funding has been estimated for schools and libraries seeking discounts for Funding Year 2009. This estimate is based on the dollars requested in 40,140 applications received or postmarked by February 12, 2009, the close of the Form 471 application filing window. There are several factors that will reduce ultimately the funds requested from the estimated level. First, while efforts have been made to eliminate duplicate requests, inevitably we will discover more duplication as we process these applications. Second, USAC's efforts to assure that funds are committed only for eligible services, for use by eligible entities with the appropriate discount rate, and are otherwise consistent with program rules, will further reduce the demand. For detailed information, please refer to the FY2009 Demand Estimate

Form 500

    It is important to note that if you are aware that your entity will not utilize all of the approved funds on a given funding request for either FY2007 (Y10) or FY2008 (Y11), you should submit a Form 500 to reduce your funding request to whatever amount is representative of the actual funding that you will require or to cancel an FRN in its entirety. This will ‘free up’ funds to be made available in subsequent years to applicants who are able to utilize them for discounts on eligible products and/or services.

The Form 500 and instructions are available on USAC’s website at www.usac.org/sl

NOTE: A Form 500 reduction or cancellation of a funding request is essentially a non-rescindable action so be sure that you are accurate in your calculations.

  • Latest News

    For 2011, we welcome the newest Districts to our CSM family of Services:
      * Palm Beach County School District
      * Dubuque Community Schools
      * Basset Unified School District
      * Hayward Unified School District
      * Imperial COE
      * Heritage Peak Charter
      * Grass Valley School District
      * Orland Unified

    The Certified E-Rate Management Professional (CEMP)
    Three members of CSM's E-Rate Compliance Management Team sat for and passed the certification exam for E-Rate Management Professionals. Read More

    The Clock is Ticking...
    The FCC released the 2012 Eligible Services List this morning which starts the clock on the filing window for 2012/2013. Read More

  • ASB360° Newsletter

  • Testimonials

    “I've had the pleasure of working with CSM for about seven years now and their expertise in the E-rate field never ceases to amaze me. Their knowledge of the E-rate rules, regulations, forms and timelines are unsurpassed. Just as important, they have contacts at the SLD to get the right answers and fight for what's right for our organization. They can take a world of worries off your back and help you get the discounts that your organization deseves.”
    - Scott Sexsmith,
    Executive Director,
    Technology & Info. Services
    Monterey COE

    “We are a very satisfied customer of CSM as they provide excellent advice and support. Kim Friends is the most knowledgeable person I know within E-rate and is always a pleasure to work with.”
    - Aaron Barnett,
    Director, IT Systems
    Moreno Valley USD


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