FCC's E-Rate Proposal Gets Some Support

Groups applaud sense of urgency about migrating subsidy to broadband
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FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's E-Rate reform proposal took heat from a bunch of education associations, but not all were giving the plan a low grade, particularly those who applauded Wheeler for moving on reforms they see as needed now.

Wheeler last week circulated a proposal to modernize the subsidy for advanced communications services to schools and libraries, including transitioning the subsidy from traditional telecom to wireless broadband and simplifying the application process.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) "applauded" the momentum toward reform represented by the proposal. It pointed out that many of the proposals were ones it had suggested, including prioritizing broadband, increasing transparency, and increasing infrastructure investments.

SETDA executive director Douglas Levin said E-Rate reforms should be in place ASAP, and certainly no later than next year.

“By focusing E-rate on high-speed broadband and expanding funding for Wi-Fi, Chairman Wheeler’s proposal for the modernization of E-rate lays the foundation for the permanent expansion of E-rate that the nation’s schools and libraries so desperately need," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. "I appreciate Chairman Wheeler’s sense of urgency on this matter. I urge the FCC to modernize E-rate, and to quickly take the next step of expanding the program to bring today’s schools and libraries into the digital age."

"We understand that the Commission adopted a multi-stage strategy, and we appreciate the Chairman’s commitment to address outstanding issues as part of an ongoing E-rate modernization process, preferably in the very near term," said the American Library Association.

"We’re pleased that the Chairman’s proposal includes a number of ways to simplify and expedite the application process for applicants, which will help more libraries to benefit from the program."

Those comments were in contrast with concerns expressed by the teachers union (National Education Association), the PTA and many others, who argued the FCC might be moving too fast, rushing reforms that could jeopardize the program .

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