Schools and Libraries Program

At its Open Meeting today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted new E-rate rules, despite strong objections from Commissioners Pai and O’Reilly.  As predicted, the new E-rate rules direct a significant, short-term boost of funding for wireless connections to schools and further focus E-rate funding on broadband services.  While the Chairman lauded the Commissioners for approving the new rules, Commissioners Pai and O’Reilly lamented the “missed opportunities” of the new rules, and making special mention of the lack of bipartisanship during the rulemaking process.  Among the dissenting Commissioners, Pai was most concerned with how the E-rate program would continue to receive funding, and repeated assertions that the Chairman intended to raise the E-rate cap later this year.  Commissioner O’Rielly asserted that there was “no long term plan” for the program and complained that many changes were “short-sighted.”

According to the Commission’s press release, the new E-rate rules will bring digital learning benefits to 10 million students across the country in 2015 alone.  The new rules also phase-out support for voice services and lower the maximum discount for schools from 90% to 80%, meaning that for every $1 that is spent by a school, $4 will be contributed by the USF.
Continue Reading FCC’s New E-Rate Rules Expose a “Digital Divide” Among Commissioners

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I don’t expect this to go anywhere, but this request is too interesting to ignore any longer.  On May 25, 2012, a library in Caroline County, Virginia petitioned the FCC to declare that Vonage is a "common carrier" under Title II of the Communications Act and to compel Vonage to register as a provider under the federal e-rate program.  The library seeks this in order to collect e-rate discounts of $1,000, "not an insubstantial amount for a small library." At its core, however, this is another example of the uncertainty created by the FCC’s long-standing refusal to classify interconnected VoIP services.


Continue Reading Small Library Seeks to Force Decision on VoIP Classification