Schools and libraries need money for Internet connections – and the FCC’s E-rate program is there to help; but it is a struggle to access the funds. A web of confusing requirements holds back applicants and threatens to break their budgets. Overwhelmed staff struggle to find their way through the snarled mess of bureaucratic gobbledygook. Meanwhile, important network upgrade projects sit idle, isolated and cut off from the financial support intended to connect them to the rest of the world. No student – no learner of any age, living in any zip code -  should be denied adequate Internet access by a tangle of federal rules.
  • This week we watched as the first tiny wave of 2018 fiber optic projects was released. Classrooms are full, and school is back in session, yet 88% of the funds for fast Internet access are being held back by murky procedures.
     
  • 11 months have passed since the education community called upon the FCC to simplify the administration of Category 2 budgets, but there are still no improvements in sight.
The regulations are working against the very system they were intended to support and protect. Instead of being a helper and a guide, the rules have morphed into secret standards and after-the-fact requirements that hinder E-rate support. Applicants cannot even get a simple calendar date to plan their purchases. This should not be.

It is time for the FCC to remove unnecessary barriers that are holding back our schools and libraries. The E-rate program exists to serve our nation’s communities, and I am grateful for it. We need the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Pai, to rein in the regulations that are keeping the program from being all that it can be. It is my sincere hope that by the next funding year, 2020, the E-rate program will be set free to do its job. Schools and libraries need the financial help; the E-rate coordinators that work so hard deserve the support; and our students and library patrons demand that we provide them the very best opportunities to learn and grow.