FCC Chairman Pai recently expressed concern over the current administration of the E-rate program. In a letter to (former) USAC CEO, Chris Henderson, Pai itemized inefficiencies in USAC’s management and stated that the “current state of affairs is unacceptable.”
The primary focus of Chairman Pai’s criticism was USAC’s roll-out of the online E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC). EPC was slated to be fully operational for applicants by the beginning of the 2016 filing window, but “is still not adequately functional…” He wrote that “EPC implementation issues have created major headaches for applicants requesting E-Rate funding.” As of today, this is still the case.
EPC was originally estimated to cost $19 million dollars to create and roll out, however the current cost has reached $30 million, and new estimates suggest it will exceed $60 million.
Chairman Pai sustained that “compounding these system failures is the lack of full transparency with the Commission.”
Ironically, or non-ironically, the amount of E-rate funding requested for 2017, and the number of applicants participating in the program, have declined significantly with this past application cycle. This drop is almost certainly attributed to the difficult-to-use EPC portal, and the continued phase out of voice services as being eligible.