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Timing of E-rate Reform

There have been several articles in the education industry press about Congressman Markey’s E-rate 2.0 bill.  The expansion of the Universal Service Fund to include schools and libraries took many years of advocacy and negotiation with various stakeholders and I feel compelled to remind everyone that having a legislative proposal or bill become law is an arduous process and can take years before possibly enacted.

We all support E-rate reform to make the process less cumbersome and increasing the funding cap above the $2.25 billion.  Even if Markey’s bill does get passed which probably will not happen this legislative session, the FCC will have to start rulemaking procedures to get stakeholder input about the various pilot programs in Markey’s bill which again, we all know, could take a year or two to get finalized.  In October 2008 Congress passed a bill to expand the CIPA regulations and it took over a year before the FCC even released  a proposed rulemaking seeking stakeholder input which is a good recent example of how long it takes to implement new regulations from legislation that gets passed.

The FCC has been wrestling with streamlining the application process for years and have made the process a little less stressful that many simple clerical mistakes and administrative errors can now be corrected due to the Bishop Perry Order.   Because the FCC has been considering different ways to streamline the application process and already has feedback and comments from stakeholders, it is more likely that they will act to release new rules before Members of Congress have time to enact E-rate reform.

I support Congressman Markey’s efforts and the education community should feel fortunate to have such a good “friend” in Congress advocating on their behalf.  As always, as anything changes, we are monitoring the FCC and Congress closely and will alert everyone of any critical changes are abound.

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