Last Thursday, July 24, the FCC issued the 176-page text of its E-rate Modernization Order (“Order”), which it adopted on July 11 in a sharply divided and partisan 3-2 vote. The Order includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that proposes to tackle a number of issues that the FCC deferred in the Order, including the hot-button political issue of whether to increase overall funding of the E-rate program.
The newly released Order focuses primarily on bringing Wi-Fi to more of the nation’s K-12 schools and libraries, although it announced a number of measures applicable to the overall E-rate program in pursuit of the FCC’s overarching goal of “ensuring affordable access to high-speed broadband sufficient to support digital learning in schools and robust connectivity for all libraries.” In addition to addressing cost-containment, efficiency and transparency issues, the Order sets a minimum high-speed broadband connectivity “target” of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students, 100 Mbps for libraries serving less than 50,000 people, and 1 Gbps for libraries serving more than 50,000 people. But it leaves the thorny question of how to pay for such enhanced connectivity to the FNPRM, with comments due on September 15 and reply comments on September 30.
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