FCC Votes to Invest in Increasing School Broadband Capacity

“The greatest responsibility, the greatest moral responsibility that any generation has is the preparation of the next generation.”
Tom Wheeler, FCC Chair

This order takes additional steps to ensure high-speed broadband connectivity to schools and libraries, particularly schools and libraries in rural areas.

The order provides:

  • Additional flexibility for schools and libraries seeking to purchase affordable, high-speed broadband connections. Specifically to provide applicants more options to pay for non-recurring construction costs. It suspends the multiyear amortization policy and allows applicants to pay the non-discount portion of non-recuring construction costs over multiple years.
  • Beginning in funding year 2016, it also equalizes program rules for dark fiber and allows e-rate applicants to self-construct high-speed broad band facilities when self-construction is the most cost-effective option, with appropriate safeguards consistent with rules already applicable to the commission’s healthcare connect fund.
  • It also provides an additional discount of up to 10% to match state funding for self-construction charges for last mile facilities with special consideration to schools and libraries,
  • Requires recipients of high-cost funding to offer high-speed broadband to schools and libraries located in the geographic area where the provider receives high-cost support at rates reasonably comparable to similar services in urban areas. Next, the order addresses the e-rate program’s ongoing funding needs.
  • It increases the predictability of funding for connectivity within schools and libraries by expanding the five-year budget approach for category two internal connections through funding year 2019.
  • The order increases the e-rate funding cap by $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion, plus annual inflationary changes.
  • The order also directs USAC to establish a performance management system to assess the effectiveness of the program’s administration.
  • Finally, the order on reconsideration adopts a more inclusive definition of rural so that a school or library located in an area with a population of less than 25,000 will be considered rural to ensure that additional funding is targeted to areas where e-indicate services are more costly.

The order dismisses petitions seeking reconsideration of the commission’s:

  • 10-year document retention rule
  • The immediate phase-out of support for voice components
  • The decision not to allow multi-year or conditional commitments.
  • It further clarifies the cost effectiveness test for individual data plans and the cost allocation requirements for circuits carrying VoIP services.

FCC Press Release

Transcript of the 11 December 2014 FCC Meeting comments and vote concerning E-Rate Modernization order.

Comments from the State Educational Technology Directors Association

December 11, 2014 (Washington, D.C.) – This morning, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continued its momentum in modernizing the E-rate program by voting to dramatically increase funding for school broadband and to make other programmatic changes to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. The following statement can be attributed to State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) executive director Douglas Levin:

“SETDA applauds today’s action by the FCC to direct new funding to E-rate in the ongoing effort to modernize this vital program. We are deeply grateful to Chairman Wheeler for his leadership and to Commissioners Rosenworcel and Clyburn for their vital support and advocacy on behalf of the nation’s students. Universal access to high-capacity broadband is as important to schools today as is access to water, electricity, heating and air-conditioning. In the future, today’s action will be viewed as among the most significant actions ever taken to change the trajectory of student success in the country.

“Moving forward, it will be vitally important for all of us to continue to work diligently to address the unique technology challenges facing rural and remote schools, as well as to ensure that all students are able to take advantage of digital learning opportunities when they are off-campus, including for homework, for personal enrichment, and when school is not in session.

“I am proud of the instrumental role that SETDA and its members played during E-rate modernization, and we look forward to working in partnership with others to ensure that the promise of today’s actions are realized in each and every classroom across the country.”

Doug Levin
Executive Director, SETDA

Founded in 2001, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal non-profit membership association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology leaders. Our mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice. For more information, please visit: SETDA.org.

Comments from the Council of Chief State School Officers

Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2014) – The Council of Chief State School Officers commends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its action today to advance educational opportunity by modernizing the E-Rate program.

Since its inception 17 years ago, E-Rate has been an essential vehicle to provide basic Internet connectivity to most U.S. schools and libraries. Through today’s action to increase E-Rate resources and promote program efficiencies, the FCC is building on the progress it made earlier this year to increase the access students will have to digital technologies in the classroom.

Specifically, the FCC today approved a $1.5 billion funding increase for public schools as they work to expand broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity.

“States cannot prepare students for the future with a technology infrastructure stuck in the past,” said CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich.

“Today’s FCC action will mean more students have improved access to innovative learning materials and resources,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to coordinate with the FCC as states prepare all students to succeed in the 21st century.”

State chiefs also applauded Thursday’s action.

“Our Future Ready Learning initiatives depend on reliable Internet connection at all of Hawaii public schools,” Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. “Additional resources to ensure broadband access increases the Department’s likelihood in getting critical funding for our student learning initiatives that meet the challenges of today’s digital world. We are hopeful that the FCC will keep this in mind as it continues to work towards prioritizing available funds to support Wi-Fi in schools.”

Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, said, “This decision will make a huge difference in California by giving our students better access to technology and allowing them to learn in a 21st century classroom that will help prepare them for college and 21st century careers.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

Transcript of the 11 December 2014 FCC Meeting comments and vote concerning E-Rate Modernization order.

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