The FCC held their monthly open meeting and released new proposed E-rate rules to streamline the application process and to provide greater flexibility to choose various broadband technologies.

Chairman Genachowski stated in a news release that “…the National Broadband Plan found that many schools need significant upgrades to meet broadband speed and capacity demands, and that many E-rate policies are out-of-date. Building on the National Broadband Plan, today we propose a number of significant reforms, drawing on the agency’s years of knowledge and experience with E-rate – and the vast array of feedback we’ve received from participants, educational experts, and other stakeholders through the National Broadband Plan process….”

Here is a sampling of the proposed E-rate rules seeking comment:

  • Proposal eliminating technology plan requirements for priority one applicants that are subject to state and local technology plan requirements.
  • Proposal eliminating the Form 470 and subsequent 28-day waiting period for applicants that are subject to local procurement laws.
  • Proposal revising the discount rules so that schools will calculate discounts on supported services by using the average discount rate for the entire school district rather than the weighted average for each school building.
  • Proposal adopting of a new definition of “rural area” for the purpose of determining whether an E-rate applicant qualifies for the rural discount.
  • Proposal providing full E-rate support for wireless Internet access service used with a portable learning device that are used off premises.
  • Comment sought on permitting recipients to receive support for the lease of fiber, even if unlit, from third parties that are not telecommunications carriers, such as municipalities and other community or anchor institutions, to allow schools and libraries more flexibility to select the most cost-effective broadband solutions.
  • Comment sought on whether to allow schools that serve unique populations to receive E-rate funding for priority one and priority two services delivered to residential areas.
  • Comment sought on how to ensure that schools and libraries receive funding for internal connections.
  • Comment sought on establishing a flat per student cap per school district for each funding year, with the applicant’s discount rate applied after the cap is determined. For example, if the cap were set at $15 per student, a school district that has 100,000 students would have a cap of $1.5 million in internal connections funding.
  • Comment sought on eliminating the 2-in-5 rule.
  • Proposal amending section 54.513 of our rules establishing how participants in the E-rate program may dispose of obsolete equipment purchased with E-rate discounts.
 

This is not an exhaustive list, but a representation of the proposals in the NPRM. The complete FCC E-rate NPRM can be viewed here.

Comment Date: (30 days from publication in the Federal Register)
Reply Comment Date: (45 days from publication in the Federal Register)

Funds For Learning will alert stakeholders once the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.

Updated: May 24th, 2010 For more in-depth analysis of the recently released NPRM, please visit Part 1: Application Simplification, Part 2: Broadband Expansion and Part 3: Equipment Disposal.