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FCC Seeks Comment on Remote Learning Support

On February 1, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Public Notice requesting comments on petitions filed by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) and other stakeholders requesting that the FCC consider allowing E-rate funds to support off-campus connectivity services needed for remote learners during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Specific areas of inquiry by the FCC include:

  • Eligible products and services – the FCC asks stakeholders to comment on what types of equipment and services are necessary to support remote learning, as well as the cost of those services. The Commission also asks “schools, libraries and other stakeholders that have recent experience with these services and costs to provide specific information about the services they are purchasing, the costs they are paying and what they have done to ensure the services are sufficient and the costs are reasonable.”
  • Costeffectiveness – comments are sought regarding the possible waiver of competitive bidding requirements for off-campus connectivity services, inquiring if “payment of the non-discount share [is] a sufficient incentive to prevent wasteful spending” and what measures should be used “to target students and teachers who lack sufficient Internet access at home.”
  • Funding levels – noting that “publicly available information strongly suggests that substantially more funding might be needed than is potentially available through the E-Rate program,” the FCC asks for “the best approach to quickly and equitably make funding available to those with the most need,” and inquires if “the E-Rate program’s existing discount rate system adequately target students that fall into the Homework Gap, especially low-income students and those in rural or remote areas.”
  • Timing – recognizing that there are “uncertainties of whether students will be able to return to the classrooms during the upcoming 2021-2022 school year,” the Commission asks if E-rate funds for off-campus services should “apply on a prospective basis in order to target the students and staff that remain without adequate home Internet access” or if it should “apply retroactively to services and equipment purchased during funding year 2020.” The FCC also asks commenters to “explain how the funding sought through the E-Rate program to address insufficient Internet access at home would not be duplicative of funding available through the Emergency Broadband Benefits Program.”
  • Legal issues – the FCC asks for comment regarding the scope of its authority to “determine which services to support under the Communications Act,” inviting “other stakeholders to comment on the Commission’s legal authority to use E-Rate funding to help address the remote learning challenges created by the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Initial comments are due on or before February 16, 2021, with reply comments due on or before February 23, 2021.  Filings should refer to WC Docket number 21-31. The FCC’s public notice may be viewed at, and the original petitions may be viewed at the following links:

Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition; American Library Association; Consortium for School Networking (CoSN); National School Boards Association (NSBA); State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA); State E-rate Coordinators’ Alliance (SECA); Urban Libraries Council (ULC); Wireless Futures Project, Open Technology Institute at New America; and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

State of Colorado

Florida Department of Management Services

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband

Los Angeles Unified School District

Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable

Mississippi Department of Education

Navajo Nation

State of Nevada, the Nevada State Board of Education, and the Nevada Department of Education

San Diego County Office of Education

Aleutians East Borough School District

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