In 2021, we saw some of the biggest changes to the K-12 E-Rate program. In 2020, there was additional funding available. Also, the five-year per-site budgets for 2020 had a 20% increase – essentially adding a 6th year to the current 5 year cycle. The line has been drawn in the sand making this year a “use it or lose it” year. If your district has leftover budget, you now have extra incentive to put it all to good use.
One way to look at the program is that we are now in year six of a six-year budget, and there will be even more funding available next year. There is funding available this year that is use-it-or-lose-it, plus more funding next year that can be spent over the course of several years. Now is the time to be strategic in developing a network path for your district that makes sense, with the current year budget, transitioning into the new budget coming next year.
On December 3, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Report and Order making significant changes to E-rate rules for Category Two funding applications. The highly-anticipated Order adopts a permanent Category Two budget system for all applicants and establishes streamlined Category Two rules which became effective in Funding Year 2021. The Order also extends the “test period” rules used during Funding Years 2015-2019 for a final year while increasing all applicant budgets by 20% in Funding Year 2020.