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Funds For Learning Urges the FCC Against Sweeping Changes to E-rate Program

Leading E-rate compliance firm issues white paper detailing how nationalizing internet procurement would undermine the competitive bidding process for K-12 schools and libraries

EDMOND, Okla. (March 30, 2022)— Funds For Learning, a leading E-rate compliance services firm, urges the FCC not to implement the new proposed bidding portal for the procurement of products and services supported by the E-rate program. Funds For Learning submitted a white paper to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) detailing the success of the current E-rate bidding regulations and describing how the new proposal would negatively impact vital E-rate program participation. Comments to the FCC regarding the proposal are due by April 27, 2022.

On December 16, 2021, the FCC proposed a sweeping overhaul to the E-rate funding program by nationalizing internet procurement for all K-12 schools and libraries who participate. The proposed rulemaking would establish one centralized bidding system managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Currently, service providers submit bids directly to applicants for E-rate supported products and services. This shift away from local autonomy for procurement would be the most radical change to the program since its inception in 1997.

In a statement, John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning, said:
“The E-rate program is a vital lifeline for every school district in the country. Schools and libraries depend on it for their unique connectivity needs, and this move by the FCC could hurt participants. This proposal would create a one-size-fits-all system, while we believe that procurement decisions are best made at the local level. Therefore, we urge the Commission not to implement the proposed E-rate bidding portal. Rather than federalizing the procurement of E-rate eligible goods and services, the public would be better served if the Commission would focus its efforts on updating the existing E-rate eligible services list and instructing USAC to improve the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC)  online application portal.”

Funds For Learning has several areas of concern with the FCC’s proposal, including:

  • USAC is not an authorized procurement agent.
  • The new tool will duplicate existing local systems that manage other all other RFPs.
  • Procurement involves more than just programming a website. It requires careful management and discretion.
  • USAC is experienced at reviewing applications but inexperienced at managing the bidding process.

Funds For Learning’s 2021 E-rate Trends Report found that 97% of respondents believe that more students or library patrons are connected because of the current E-rate program. Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed that the current competitive bidding process lowered costs for services.

Funds For Learning strongly supports the current E-rate competitive bidding system, including the requirements that applicants:

  • Comply with their state and local competitive bidding rules
  • Notify potential bidders of opportunities via posting of the FCC Form 470
  • Publish vendor selection and pricing information publicly via submission of the FCC Form 471
  • Maintain competitive bidding documents for a 10-year period

Access Funds For Learning’s online resources about the proposed changes and sign the petition to keep current bidding rules here.

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