In the Sixth Report and Order the FCC determined that dark fiber is now eligible for E-rate support.  The FCC’s goal in this decision is to provide as much flexibility to school districts as possible to choose the best technology that suits their unique needs.

The FY 2011 Eligible Services List  has a special Telecommunications category that addresses dark fiber. School districts can purchase this service from either a common carrier or any other provider such as a state network or other utility company that can provide dark fiber to school districts.  However, applicants should be aware of specific requirements tied to the procurement of dark fiber.

If a school district is seeking dark fiber but only listed dark fiber in the Telecommunications category on the Form 470, they can only purchase that service from a common carrier and on the Form 471 must put that the service is a Telecommunications Service.  However, if an applicant chooses another service provider that was not a common carrier and on the Form 470 listed dark fiber in the Internet Access category, the applicant, on the Form 471, must list that service in the Internet Access category.

According to a Funds For Learning analysis, since October 1, 165 Forms 470 identified dark fiber as a service that school districts are trying to procure.  Many of those applicants only put they were looking for dark fiber in either the Telecommunications or Internet Access categories on the Form 470 which could lead to less flexibility in whom dark fiber can be purchased from.  As a best practice, schools should put they are looking for dark fiber in both categories on the Form 470 which will enable them to get that service from either a common carrier or another provider.

Many stakeholders had questions about the eligibility of dark fiber and the FCC recently released additional information about dark fiber to address those concerns.