The FCC Moves to Modernize its E-Rate Program and Increase Funding for Wi-Fi in Schools and Public Libraries

July 2014
Number 41

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved a plan to modernize its E-rate program. The E-rate program, also known as the School and Libraries Universal Service Support program, is designed to help schools and public libraries obtain affordable telecommunications services and internal network connections. Schools and public libraries in California will benefit from the FCC’s recent action.

The modernization plan, adopted on July 11, 2014, represents the first effort to modernize the E-rate program since its creation over 18 years ago. The plan has three primary objectives: (1) significantly expand funding for Wi-Fi networks; (2) maximize program funds through greater pricing transparency, encouragement of consortia and bulk purchasing, and increased enforcement of existing rules; and (3) streamline the administration and application process.

The E-rate plan will make an additional $2 billion available to support Wi-Fi networks over the next two years. Rather than increasing its budget, the FCC expects to make these funds available by improving financial management and by freeing up excess reserves that will be created by phasing out older technologies such as dial-up phone services and pagers. It has indicated that new E-rate rules should be in place in time to support Wi-Fi upgrades across the country for the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The FCC believes its modernization plan will expand Wi-Fi access to as many as 10 million additional students in 2015.

The FCC characterizes its recent action as an important step but emphasizes that it is part of an ongoing modernization process. It is still seeking comment on long-term program funding needs, steps necessary to facilitate the use of cost-effective consortium-based purchasing, and alternative methodologies for allocating support for library Wi-Fi connectivity. Your school or public library may want to consider providing input on this program.

If you have questions regarding the acquisition of E-rate program funds for your school or public library or the implementation and use of technology in your district or city, please contact one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or download our Client News Brief App.

Written By

William P. Curley III
Senior Counsel
Los Angeles Office

Mark P. Bookholder
Monterey Office

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.


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