The FCC has launched its first major overhaul of the E-rate program since its inception in 1997 in a 175-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”). The NPRM was launched in response to President Obama’s recent ConnectED announcement in which the President pledged to connect 99% of America’s students to broadband at speeds of at least 100 Mbps, with a target of 1 Gbps, within five years.
The proposed rulemaking, however, makes very few actual proposals and is more preliminary in its approach than most NPRMs. In fact, one of the most notable features of the NPRM is the number of questions it poses. The main areas of focus that the FCC seeks to address in the rulemaking proceeding are: achieving the ConnectED goals, maximizing the cost-effectiveness of E-rate funds, streamlining, and simplifying the application and approval process.
The FCC will most likely undertake its reform efforts in stages rather than implementing a total overhaul of the program in one unified order. We anticipate that one of the first items it will address will be to eliminate funding for outdated services such as dial up Internet access service in order to repurpose the money for broadband services.
A more detailed discussion of the NPRM is provided in our client advisory.