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FCC asking for focused comment on E-Rate modernization

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau yesterday asked for focused comment on three issues raised in its E-rate Modernization Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). These are comments on the E-Rate objective to provide schools and libraries with up-to-date broadband connectivity. They are, specifically:

•    ensuring that schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st Century broadband that supports digital learning
•    maximizing the cost-effectiveness of E-rate funds
•    streamlining the administration of the program

Comments are due by April 7, and parties may file reply comments by April 21, 2014.

The FCC and its stakeholders regard the E-Rate program as crucial to modern education. And, “The record also shows a strong commitment to ensuring that the E-rate program quickly evolve to meet the ever-growing need for high-capacity broadband so our students and communities have access.”

Last month, Speed Matters reported on public support for E-Rate by top government officials: President Obama, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. As Wheeler said:

“The Federal Communications Commission shares the President’s commitment to seizing the opportunities of digital learning, which is why we’ve already launched an effort to modernize our successful E-Rate program – the nation’s largest education technology program.”

Government officials haven’t been the only ones pushing for E-Rate modernization. In November, 2013, CWA offered reply comments to the FCC calling for an increase in E-Rate budget, and for a series of specific goals and principles. These were:

•    Increase funding for the E-rate program.
•    Take action on universal service fund (USF) contribution reform.
•    Adopt school system connectivity targets of 100 Mbps increasing to 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.
•    Use E-Rate as part of a larger program to spur job-creating investment in high-capacity networks to the surrounding community.

And recently, Speed Matters reiterates its support for the federal E-Rate program and other efforts to bring the fastest, most reliable broadband to the nation’s schools and libraries.

Focused comment on E-Rate modernization (FCC public notice, Mar. 6, 2014)

CWA urges FCC to increase E-rate funding (Speed Matters, Nov. 13, 2013)

E-Rate scores big
(Speed Matters, Jan. 30, 2014)