I was reading the Schools and Libraries Weekly News Brief
on January 18 and the SLD wanted to remind everyone that voice services are no longer eligible for discounts going forward and voice services will not appear on the FY 2019 Form 471. I am hoping that when the FCC explores reforming the E-rate and streamlining the process in the future that they will reconsider the decision to defund voice services.
As Funds For Learning noted back in our FY2017 Eligible Services List FCC response:
“FFL’s analysis of FY 2016 E-rate applications revealed, not surprisingly, that applicants submitted more requests for discounts on voice service than for any other type of service. The same was true in FY2015, the first year of the phase-down. We anticipated this high level of demand, since applicants must have voice services to conduct school business and to keep everyone in their buildings safe and secure. Voice service is not a luxury. It is not something that is simply nice to have. In contrast, the Commission’s short-term target of 100 Mbps service per 1000 students and longer-term target of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students remains just that – something for schools and libraries to aspire to, but which remains, as a practical matter, something that they would like to have…..Because of the Commission’s decision to defund voice service, schools and libraries now have less money available in their budgets for broadband. So while eliminating funding for voice service might have looked to the Commission like a step toward modernization, in reality, it was not. In many instances, it is actually making it more difficult for schools and libraries to acquire the kind of broadband connectivity that the Commission would like every school and library to have….”
On October 6, 2017, Funds For Learning released an analysis
that demonstrated that the FCC’s assumption “…that telephone service needed to be removed from the E-rate program to make way for the funding of internal connections was wrong. There was no need to horse trade for internal connections. There is ample funding to support broadband connections, internal connections AND telephone service. The annual E-rate funding camp is about $4 billion. Current demand (when adjusted for gross errors in applications) is just short of $3 billion. That leaves about $1 billion in wiggle room for voice services…” In FY 2018, approximately $2.7 billion was requested, again, plenty of room to fund voice services for our nation’s schools and libraries.
Policymakers should let local decision-making drive purchasing decisions and voice services clearly fits in eligible framework of the Universal Service Fund. School districts are under the tightest of budgets and would welcome the opportunity to once again leverage the E-rate program to help pay for the costs of voice services.