The Federal Communications Commission, in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released yesterday, declared that connection to the Internet alone will no longer be the standard of success for the E-rate program. Speed and capacity of the Internet connection will be the new standard and efficiency and transparency will be the goal for program administration. The NPRM outlines a number of ideas on how to achieve these new standards and requests stakeholder input. BB&K will be assembling a coalition of local governments and local educators to provide input to the FCC. Comments in the proceeding are due September 16; reply comments will be due by October 16.
The Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries (more commonly called the E-rate program) provides discounted telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries. It is the federal government’s largest educational technology program. The program was established in the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, when only 14 percent of the nation's K-12 classrooms had access to the Internet. Today, virtually every library and school in the nation is connected to the Internet.
Spending on the E-rate program is capped at $2.25 billion per year, indexed to inflation since 2010. For the 2013 funding year, schools and libraries sought E-rate funding in excess of $4.9 billion, more than twice the 2013 cap of $2.4 billion. Demand has exceeded the E-rate cap every year since the program's inception.
Notice of Proposed Rule Making Questions
With its release of the NPRM, the FCC is initiating a full review to modernize the program centered around three proposed goals on which the Commission asks for input:
For more information on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and how your agency or school district can provide input, contact Gerry Lederer in the Telecommunications group, Tyree Dorward in the Education practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
Disclaimer: BB&K legal alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.