Complex regulations are stopping schools and libraries from accessing the E-rate funds they so desperately need and deserve. Rules that should protect schools and libraries instead block them from receiving support. We’ve seen this in delays for funding in fiber optic networks and it is prevalent in the “so-called” duplicative services regulations as well. These rules exist to keep schools from buying excess bandwidth. To most of us, it may come as a surprise that too much bandwidth is a problem. After all, isn’t the challenge facing our schools and libraries the need to access more bandwidth, not less? Yet there is a whole body of regulations keeping our centers of learning from getting too much Internet access. 

This week, the SHLB Coalition filed comments in support of an appeal submitted by the New York City Department of Education related to USAC’s denials of the city’s alternate data network. New York City, like so many other communities, recognizes the importance of keeping its schools online. To insure availability to its network, the school district wants to have alternate means of connecting to the Internet should its primary network be lost for any reason. 

The E-rate program was built around the needs of local schools and libraries. The program lets local participants set their own technology priorities and choose how to use their limited budgets. Because E-rate is a discount program, it doesn’t need extra regulations to second guess local technology requirements. Applicants have skin in the game and must decide for themselves which goods and services are most important. 

In New York City’s case, they have decided it is a priority to invest their money in additional bandwidth for their students’ education and safety. Why are there regulations against this? This is not wasteful, this is not duplicative, this not unnecessary. Bringing bandwidth to school buildings and to classrooms is the very purpose of the E-rate program. 

Funds For Learning has repeatedly called upon the FCC to eliminate duplicative services regulations and we again make this plea. The FCC should grant New York City’s appeal and at the same time take this opportunity to strike down this regulation. Doing so will allow schools and libraries to access E-rate funding and keep our communities connected when they need it the most.