Next week the FCC is set to vote on an increase to the annual E-rate funding cap. In the lead up to this vote, the FCC staff has been busy analyzing data to determine how much money should be in the annual E-rate budget. The FCC has teams of people that specialize in analyzing data, and I have been lucky to meet many of these individuals. I have had in-person meetings with them at the FCC offices, in coffee shops and other random locations around Washington, DC. And I have had plenty of conversations with them on conference calls, too. Based on my experience, I can tell you this: they are smart, caring people who know a thing or two about analyzing data.
At Funds For Learning, we also dedicate a good deal of our time and energy to E-rate data analysis. We spend a lot of time looking at tables of E-rate funding information to discern the underlying trends and factors. These impact our clients and the overall health and welfare of the E-rate program. If you’ve spent any time on our web site, you’ve already been subjected to our “slicing and dicing” of information.
But you don’t need to be a professional FCC statistician, or a consultant at Funds For Learning, to understand the following fact: The demand for E-rate funding has exceeded the annual funding cap every year.
- In 1998, the first year of the E-rate program, applicants needed more support than was available.
- In 2014, the current funding year, applicants needed more support than was available.
- In every year between, applicants needed more support than was available.
This is the reason that I support the increase to the E-rate funding cap. Each and every year, since the beginning of the program, schools and libraries have reported that they need more support than there was funding available. It doesn’t take a special mathematical background or E-rate expertise to understand this fact.
I will say it one more time: not once has the annual funding cap been sufficient to cover the annual connectivity needs of our nation’s schools and libraries.
I have a great deal of respect for the hard work, dedication, and passion of the staff at the FCC who oversee the E-rate program. They recognize the critical role the Internet plays in today’s schools and libraries. Broadband connectivity is a game changer for our nation’s families and communities — and the FCC is striving to give our country an E-rate program that rises to the level of that opportunity. Please let the FCC Commissioners and staff know that you, too, support broadband connectivity in our schools and libraries and the modest increase to the E-rate funding cap proposed by Chairman Wheeler.