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Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Once again, I am Chicken Little.  Back in May when the FCC decided to use the entire $1.6 billion surplus for FY 2015-2016, I predicted that the fund would get whipsawed in FY 2016-2017, as demand rose and the rollover shrunk.  Now it looks like I was wrong.

Yesterday, USAC told the FCC that it will have $1.9 billion in unused funds available to carry forward into FY 2016-2017.  Wow! An even bigger rollover than last year.

What does this mean for applicants?  It means that the fund will have $5.8 billion available for FY 2016-2017.  Even I think it's extremely unlikely that demand will exceed that number, so that means that once again, everyone will get C2 funding.

But you know I'm not going to make it all the way through a blog post without finding a little rain cloud where everyone else just sees sun.

Where did that huge carryover come from?  I don't know, but I guess part of it is the extra $2 billion that the Chairman identified back in March 2014.  He promised an extra $1 billion/year for 2 years.  So looking ahead to FY 2017-2018, the rollover might be much smaller.  And one of the reasons that demand has not been higher is that most school districts had upgraded their Wi-Fi networks for the PARCC and SBAC tests in FY 2014-2015.  Assuming a 3-year replacement cycle, 2017-2018 could see a surge in demand.  Surge in demand, drop in funding.

And looking further out on the horizon, there is a big black storm cloud, but it probably won't hit us: ADA.  The Chairman didn't say where the extra $1 billion was coming from, other than some mention of "better accounting practices," which I took to mean leveraging the fund.  That's great and efficient all, but it's not the way government operates.  The Anti-Deficiency Act says that the government can't commit to spend money that it doesn't have.  Government is not allowed to leverage.  Except the USF has an exemption from the ADA, and the Universal Service Antideficiency Temporary Suspension Act keeps getting extended, so all is well.  And the current extension doesn't run out until...[sound of record scratching]

The current ADA exemption runs out in 9 days.

Not to worry, the House is on the job, and has included an extension until 2020 in H.R.2583, which has been passed by the House and sent over to the Senate, where it's been read and referred to committee.  But H.R.3675, a pretty identical bill, got that far last year before dying in committee.

I'm not a legislative expert, so I feel like I've missed something.  Anybody know how we're going to avoid the program grinding to a halt in 9 days?

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