About $5 billion of the estimated $19.5 billion in eRate funds committed to schools and libraries from 1998 to 2006 were never used, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In some cases, funds were not claimed because the applicants' needs changed from the time they applied until it was time to file a Form 486, which releases the funding to applicants or their service providers. In other cases, the actual expenses that applicants incurred were less than the amount of funding they had applied for. Often, the sheer complexity of the program caused applicants or their...

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