Federal Communications Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy announced March 18 that she is organizing a public forum to discuss potential rule changes to strengthen compliance and oversight of the E-rate program. The hearing will be held at 1 p.m. on May 8, and all the FCC commissioners have been invited to attend.
Abernathy chairs the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, which advised the FCC on the regulatory framework that was put in place for the program. She said that recent meetings with school administrators and the Universal Service Administrative Company "have convinced me that the FCC needs to take a hard look at whether our rules provide an adequate framework to avoid wasteful expenditures and prevent gaming of the system." Abernathy added, "While our established procedures have successfully uncovered instances of program abuse, we need to consider changes to lessen the potential for waste, fraud and abuse."
Abernathy said she intended to convene a group of "school administrators, service providers, equipment vendors and other key parties" to explore ways to ensure that funds are disbursed in a "fair, efficient and cost-effect manner. A transcript of the proceeding will be placed in the record of the rule-making that the FCC initiated last year to consider changes in the program. Participants will be announced at a later date.