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FCC Consumer Advisory Committee Weighs In On E-rate Reform

In an effort to modernize the E-rate program and increase its efficiency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Public Notice detailing proposed program changes currently being considered. The Consumer Advisory Committee issued its response in recommendations as well as highlighted areas of support within the FCC’s reform efforts.

Updating the E-rate program for the 21st century is the crux of the Consumer Advisory Committee’s recommendations. In response to the nation’s spotlight turning towards the education system, FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has resolved to revise the current E-rate program to meet the needs of the country’s schools and libraries. 

“By applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers.”

In support of the FCC’s mission for modernization, the Consumer Advisory Committee submitted the following recommendations:

  • Broadband connectivity for schools and libraries should be a priority
  • E-rate funding should be distributed in a way that promotes fair and equitable service and adequate speeds to schools and libraries of various sizes and in various locations
  • Do not only connect schools and libraries to the internet, also assist in the purchase of essential equipment to spread that connectivity
  • Consider whether Priority 2 funding adequately addresses the unique needs of rural communities and smaller schools
  •  Do not tie funding to specific educational outcomes
  • Data collection and monitoring of the E-rate program should be improved—i.e. simpler E-rate application forms
  • Implement an electronic filing system
  • Simplify the application and disbursement processes for E-rate applicants and customers— consider eliminating the Form 470 altogether
  • Set a permanent and stable annual filing date for applications
  • Allow multi-year applications, such as three-year Form 471 applications

In addition to the FCC Consumer Advisory Board, all other E-rate stakeholders have been solicited to submit their responses to the possible E-rate reforms slated to be implemented no earlier than July 2015 of Funding Year 2015. The deadline to respond is April 7, with the opportunity for reply comments ends April 21.

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