Funding, Grants & Awards

Lit Fiber Leads Latest E-rate Funding Requests

Right now the biggest area for category one funding requests in the E-rate program is for lit fiber — major bandwidth connectivity. That line item in applications for the 2016 funding year totals $1.3 billion in pre-discount dollars, a request that trounces every other type of category one service included on applications by at least a factor of five-to-one. Compare that to $256 million, which is the total of funding requested for telephony services and $86 million for wireless data services.

However, telephony shows up on more applications — 18,561 — compared to 14,823 for lit fiber data and 1,157 applications for wireless data. Cellular voice comes in third as far as the number of applicants requesting that kind of discount — 9,299 in total.

E-rate is a program run by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), to help public schools and libraries update their computing and telecommunications infrastructure by granting pre-approved discounts to schools and districts on equipment purchase and implementation.

The top item for category two dollars, which covers internal connectivity, is switches, which falls somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 in requests. Wi-Fi, which is just about at the $400 million mark, comes in second. Related components, cabling and installation, are third at under $200 million.

Those figures come from analysis done by Funds for Learning, a company that consults with school districts on their E-rate funding applications. The organization used data provided by USAC, which administers the E-rate program for the Federal Communications Commission.

Funds for Learning noted that the initial round of funding decisions arrived just 21 days after the filing window closed — making it "the fastest in the history of the E-rate program." That first funding wave includes more than $17.7 million in commitments for 2,251 approved applications.

"Internet connections for schools and libraries are essential, and the E-rate program exists to support this important mission," said Funds for Learning CEO, John Harrington, in a prepared statement. "The fast turn-around is a positive indication that funds will begin flowing and USAC will release applications quickly."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.