The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is facing a wave of backlash over its proposed federal E-rate bidding portal. Comments about the new system were submitted this week to the FCC, and the perspectives shared were uniquely consistent. Because the schools and libraries community is so diverse, there is typically a broad range of different opinions when the FCC asks for comments. But not this time. The FCC managed to bring groups together in a way that is rarely seen. Prominent education groups, state governments, the American Library Association, and even Verizon corporation, all came out against the new portal.
Below are excerpts from a few of the major comments.
CoSN and SETDA
“Rather than creating a national bidding portal, the Commission should develop better program guidance, expand technical assistance, and identify lower-burden ways for applicants to share vital information as part of the program’s existing application processes.”
American Library Association
“The Commission proposes to make this fundamental change to the E-rate program to address issues of waste, fraud and abuse. While addressing these issues is critical, we are skeptical that a bidding portal will have much success in doing so. Instead, a bidding portal will likely have negative consequences by adding another layer of complexity to this program which may result in some libraries, especially smaller libraries, dropping out of the program.”
“While Verizon supports efforts to ensure that E-Rate is administered effectively and without waste, fraud, or abuse, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) should not adopt its proposal to create a new E-Rate bidding portal through which service providers would be required to submit bids to USAC instead of directly to E-Rate applicants. Such a portal would only add unwelcome complexity to what is an already extremely complex program, and could seriously burden and deter program participation, without significantly improving the current competitive bidding process.”
Council of Great City Schools
“The Council acknowledges the need to protect against waste, fraud, and abuse in the competitive bidding process but urges the Commission not to implement a “Bidding Portal” that would create new, duplicative, and burdensome processes for school districts to access E-Rate benefits.”
“Just as the Commission admits the complexity of the existing program and is seeking ways to simplify the E-rate program, SECA posits that the proposed bidding portal undoubtedly and unnecessarily will increase program complexity for stakeholders; will encourage the administrator to serve as a super-reviewer of each applicant’s competitive bidding process; will delay issuance of funding commitment decision letters; and will not identify or weed out bidding improprieties.”
“Unfortunately, the proposed changes to the competitive bidding requirements, including establishing a new E-rate bidding portal, are not the correct methods by which to achieve them. The proposals will be overly burdensome to implement, conflict with existing state and local procurement processes, hinder competition and participation in the program, and will not address any well-identified or quantified fraudulent practices. In short, the contemplated rule changes are unnecessary, unwieldy, and unwise.”