The FCC released its long-awaited order on the E-Rate category 2 formula. The Commission agreed to make the formula-based funding distribution method for category 2 permanent, which provides support for Wi-Fi and internal connections, albeit with a few significant tweaks.

E-rate is the universal U.S. service that provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

What’s Changing and What’s Not?

Increasing the floor:

One major change to category 2 that the Commission will implement is increasing the floor funding level from $9,200 to $25,000 in an effort to persuade more small schools and libraries to apply.

School formula unchanged:

The Commission agreed to leave the school formula of $150 per pupil unchanged, but also decided to establish a single formula for libraries rather than have different formulas for urban libraries.

System-wide budgeting:

The Commission’s order will also allow for school district-wide and library-system wide budgeting. This enables them to allocate category 2 funding as they see fit.

Five-year cycle:

The order also clarified that the category 2 formula’s five-year cycle will be fixed and not rolling and that the next five-year cycle will begin for all applicants in 2021. This will be a transition year, with all schools and libraries eligible for pro-rated funding.

Cybersecurity and buses not eligible:

Comments received by the Commission in this rulemaking did request that it make cybersecurity and wi-fi on school buses eligible for support, but the final order did not agree to those changes.

The final order on the E-Rate cap is yet to be published.