FCC Chairman Proposes Permanent $1.5 Billion Increase in E-Rate Funding

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating an order to his fellow FCC Commissioners for consideration at the FCC December open meeting that, among other things, would permanently increase the E-Rate program’s annual funding cap.  The announcement was made in an FCC blog post and a “fact sheet” summarizing the Chairman’s overall plan to comprehensively reform the E-Rate program, which began with the July 2014 E-Rate Modernization Order and will continue with the next steps that the FCC must take to make high-speed Internet access available in schools and libraries within five years.  Funding for the E-Rate program is capped at $2.25 billion per year with annual increases that are tied to the rate of inflation on a going-forward basis.  The E-Rate program cap for funding year 2014 is roughly $2.413 billion.  Chairman Wheeler is proposing a permanent $1.5 billion increase, which would push annual E-Rate funding over $3.9 billion annually.  According to the fact sheet, the proposed $1.5 billion increase will cost an individual rate payer approximately 16 cents a month, about a half a penny per day or about $1.90 a year – less than a medium-sized soda at a fast food restaurant or a cup of coffee – but the impact on children, teachers, local communities, and American competiveness will be significant.  Additionally, staff of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis have prepared and released an E-Rate “data update” to supplement the E-Rate staff report that was released in August 2014 to assist parties in navigating the large and data-intensive record in the E-Rate Modernization docket.  The data update report provides additional support for increasing the amount of funding available annually under the E-Rate program.

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