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The first 2015 E-rate deadline – filing Form 470 – is projected to be mid-February. Are you ready to file?

Are you up-to-date on all the changes, reclassifications and funding increases that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made since July 2014? If not, the window for educating yourself and your team is closing soon.

Recently, Ronald Sheps, Director of State and Local Education Programs for Comstor, hosted a webinar that outlined the FCC’s E-rate Modernization Order. The webinar included a recap of changes made in the summer of 2014, as well as an overview of the $1.5 billion funding increase the FCC made to the E-rate program in December. In addition, Sheps covered key program changes in effect for the 2015-2016 funding year, including:

• Discounts on purchases of wide area networks
• Category 2 budget cap increases from $2.30 to $5.00 per square foot for urban libraries
• Incentives for state support of last-mile broadband facilities
• Elimination of requirement for applicants to pay up-front construction costs
• Permanence of the Category 2 budget system through 2019

Sheps shared that “E-rate 2.0” is all about closing the Wi-Fi gap and reminded attendees that the FCC is phasing out of support for voice services, which they will reduce as a category by 20 percent per year until 2018 when funding of voice services will end. Instead, the FCC is focusing on covering the products that will support Wi-Fi, broadband, LAN or WLAN.

To make it easier, the FCC is utilizing electronic filing of forms going forward, and Sheps outlined where to find the forms for webinar attendees. He also outlined a new tool available from the FCC that allows for easy searching of maps where schools and libraries are across the United States.

Click here to access all of the tips and tools for E-rate 2.0 that Ronald Sheps shared with webinar attendees.