Schools and libraries nationwide are preparing for possible changes to the E-rate program for the 2010-2011 school year. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) containing significant proposed changes to the regulatory structure of the E-rate program.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated, "…the National Broadband Plan found that many schools need significant upgrades to meet broadband speed and capacity demands, and that many E-rate policies are out-of-date. Building on the National Broadband Plan, today we propose a number of significant reforms, drawing on the agency’s years of knowledge and experience with E-rate – and the vast array of feedback we’ve received from participants, educational experts, and other stakeholders through the National Broadband Plan process..."

The NPRM contains numerous proposed changes aimed at streamlining the E-rate application process and expanding the use of broadband access in the classroom. Proposals include eliminating the technology plan and Form 470 filing requirements for applicants who are already subject to state and local procurement and tech planning requirements, simplifying the discount calculation methodology, establishing per-student funding caps, eliminating the "two-in-five" rule for Internal Connections, and adjusting the annual funding cap to account for inflation.

The FCC is asking E-rate stakeholders to submit public comments about the proposed changes. Comments are due by July 9, 2010, and reply comments must be submitted by July 26. Click here for a complete summary of the NPRM.