This week, several industry groups sent letters to the Federal Communications Commission requesting that the temporary waiver of the E-rate program’s gift rules be extended due to ongoing challenges associated with COVID-19. In separate letters, the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance (SECA) as well as the Schools, Health & Libraries Coalition (SHLB), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) request that the FCC extend the gift rule waiver through June 30, 2021. SHLB, CoSN, and SETDA’s letter notes that:
“many schools, libraries and healthcare providers have benefited from this regulatory relief. In fact, many institutions are receiving free services on an ongoing basis. Not extending the gift rule waiver would be enormously disruptive to these anchor institutions – forcing them either to stop receiving the service or to divert funding away from other potentially life-saving activities to pay for the service – while they are in the midst of the crisis.”
SECA’s letter also requests “additional relief for schools across the county that have had to increase their E-rate eligible, on-campus Internet connectivity to continue to be able to provide education during the pandemic.” Noting that “the heightened reliance on distance learning instituted in response to COVID-19 requires considerably more Internet bandwidth on campus than traditional in-person instruction,” SECA asks that the FCC allow applicants to request additional E-rate funds to support unanticipated bandwidth increases. SECA suggests that the additional funding could be made available via appeals, a “liberal waiver policy for late-submitted FY2020 Form 471 applications,” or a special one-time Form 471 application window.