Newspaper article Roll Call

Praise and Criticism after FCC E-Rate Vote

Newspaper article Roll Call

Praise and Criticism after FCC E-Rate Vote

Article excerpt

Reactions to the Federal Communications Commission's Friday decision to approve a modified overhaul of a program that discounts telecommunications and Internet bills for schools and libraries ranged from praise to criticism of the process to calls for more money in the future.

CQ Roll Call's Carolyn Phenicie writes that the panel approved the modified overhaul after Chairman Tom Wheeler's original proposal faced widespread opposition among both congressional Democrats and Republicans. Here's the background, from Phenicie:

Wheeler last month proposed updating the E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries pay for Internet service, to emphasize funding for the physical structures needed to expand wireless Internet capacity.

Education groups and congressional Democrats said the proposal would reduce funding for basic Internet service and should include an overall increase in program funding. Congressional Republicans questioned how such an increase would be possible without raising the cap on the Universal Service Fund, a move they oppose.

The FCC approved the rule 3-2 and commissioners and staff said the modified proposal would require that all broadband service requests are fulfilled before any funding is spent on wireless needs, according to Phenicie.

After the vote, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who earlier this week raised concerns in a letter to Wheeler, said in a statement that the FCC had addressed some of his concerns and "correctly recognized that, while the need to promote wi-fi in all schools and libraries is more important than ever, it should not come at the expense of bringing broadband to the brick and mortar building itself."

Similarly, National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement that there were "initial concerns with the originally proposed changes attempting to modernize the E-Rate Program that could have harmed the very students it was designed to help and only widen the increasingly large technology gap," but praised the panel for "listening to the concerns of educators in devising a final proposal that will connect all students to the Internet, including those in rural and high-poverty urban areas. …

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