California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 1
December, 1997-January, 1998
E-rate Central -- An Update

Funding: Application forms will be available soon. Districts advised to proceed cautiously.

Greg Lindner, Yolo County Superintendent of Schools

E-rate is finally starting to accelerate! The Draft forms (470 and 471) went to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on 11/13/97. OMB has two weeks to review and revise them. Once they have been reviewed the FCC will publicly announce their availability and mail them out to schools.

Recently, a California delegation consisting of Kelly Blanton (Kern County Superintendent of Schools), Jackie Lamb (California Department of Education), Owen Burgess (KCSOS), Skip Sharp (San Diego COE), and me (Greg Lindner, Yolo COE), met with Ira Fishman (CEO of the Schools and Libraries Corporation), Meryanne McCormick (FCC), Valerie Yates (FCC), and Lisa Gelb (FCC) to clarify E-rate issues for California Schools. Additionally we met with Paul Galant, counsel to Commissioner Tristani.

All the meetings were beneficial in clarifying information and putting things into perspective. More importantly, they allowed us to shed some light on the issues the field is experiencing with the program. Both the excitement about the possibilities of the program as well as the frustrations regarding uncertainty surrounding the details were discussed. We came away from the meetings feeling both sides benefited greatly. We all have the same goal and that is to see the program succeed.

The biggest issue that seems to be facing districts at this time is the answer to the question, "Should I sign a contract now or wait until the bidding process is operational?" The best advice I can give and others have given is to WAIT unless you absolutely have to sign a contract now. If you do have to sign one, it is strongly recommended that the contract contain language to the effect, "subject to E-rate funding". Please remember that no services received prior to January 1, 1998 will be covered.

The second biggest issue is how Master Contracts will be handled under the E-rate program. Jackie Lamb of CDE and the Department of General Services are working with the FCC to resolve and streamline these contracts. Included in these discussions is how CMAS will be handled. Currently there are about 1200 CMAS contracts that are eligible under the program based on the dates of those contracts. There are about 3-4000 current CMAS contracts.

The third biggest issue seems to be how is the California Teleconnect Fund going to interface with the E-rate program. Jackie Lamb of CDE has also been meeting with the CPUC to clarify this issue. In fact the CPUC has issued a request for comments (comment period ends 11/17/97) on a resolution that clarifies the issue from CPUC's perspective. Basically the resolution clarifies some confusing language in their prior document. In summary the resolution states that the E-rate should be taken first then the CTF. The downside of taking the E-rate first and then the CTF is dependent upon how long it takes the paperwork to be completed. Specifically, if you have CTF now, you should be covered for the 98 year. In 99, it appears you would have to utilize E-rate first, drop CTF then reapply for CTF. We're concerned about how long it might take to turn the paperwork around since in the past it has taken 3-6 months to get CTF. Stay tuned for more information on this.

A lot is happening on E-rate and it is changing every day. Since most of the information we receive is verbal it has been frustrating at times relaying the same information to everyone. One of the best resources I have found for gathering E-rate information, clarification, and the latest news is the CEDPA Erate Listserve. Directions on how to sign up for the listserve are on the CEDPA home page at http://cedpa-k12.org.

To stay informed on E-rate, subscribe to the listserve and also check out the following pages:

CDE's E-rate Page: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ftpbranch/retdiv/k12/e-rate/

Yolo COE's E-rate Page: http://www.yolo.k12.ca.us/erate.htm

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