Chairman Response Regarding E-Rate Modernization
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
August 11, 2014
The Honorable Kelly Ayotte
United States Senate
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Ayotte
Thank you for sharing your views on the importance of modernizing the E-rate program
to provide high-speed broadband to and within all of our nation's schools and libraries. Your
letter urges the Commission to take meaningful reform that distributes E-rate funds more
equitably, simplifies the application process, and gives schools greater flexibility to spend funds
on technologies that directly benefit students. Your views are very important and will be
included in the record of the proceeding and considered as part of the Commission1S review.
Since its creation as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the E-rate program has
provided crucial support to meet the technology needs of schools and libraries. But just as
technology and teaching have evolved over the past two decades, so too must E-rate. The
technology tools that supported the educational needs of the Class of 1998 bear virtually no
resemblance to those the Classes of 2015 and beyond need to succeed in the 21 st century. I am
committed to ensuring that theE-rate program evolves to meet the demands ofthe 21 51 century
by supporting high-speed broadband both to and within schools and libraries. Schools need this
broadband to take advantage of digital learning technologies, and libraries need to provide their
patrons with high-speed access to the Internet.
I completely agree with your view that "[t]he intent ofE-Rate is to provide rural, urban,
and suburban students the same access to quality communications services." That is exactly why
the Order adopted by the Commission at our July Open Meeting takes significant steps to
modernize theE-rate program by addressing the Wi-Fi gap in America's schools and libraries.
We established an annual funding target of $1 billion for Wi-Fi, as well as a fairer method for
distributing funds so that all schools and libraries can benefit, including more rural schools and
libraries in New Hampshire. Given that 40 percent of classrooms nationwide are not currently
Wi-Fi-enabled, and nearly two-thirds of schools indicate that they do not have sufficient Wi-Fi
capacity to meet their digital learning needs, it is critically important that we focus our limited
program resources on connectivity, not only to the school or library, but also to the student or
library patron. The Order funds support for Wi-Fi through the combination of funds already
available for this purpose and savings associated with transitioning support from non-broadband
services to broadband. At the same time, the Order ensures that adequate funding will be
available for broadband connectivity to schools and libraries and seeks further comment on the
long-term funding needs of the program.
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Consistent with your suggestions to simplify the application process, the Order makes
several changes to help make the E-rate processes faster, simpler, and more efficient for all
stakeholders and provide schools with greater flexibility on technologies that directly benefit
students. The Order streamlines the application process by simplifying review of multi-year
contracts, expediting small dollar, cost-effective applications, speeding review of all
applications, requiring electronic filing, and enabling direct connections between schools and
Moreover, to make E-rate dollars go further, the Order adopts transparency measures to
provide applicants with the pricing and connectivity data needed to make smart purchasing
decisions. The Order also encourages consortia purchasing to drive down prices and ensures
that applicants are selecting from the best possible bids through the lowest corresponding price
The Order is a common sense, responsible step in theE-rate modernization process. We
are targeting already available funds to meet the greatest current needs, we are getting as much
as we can out of every E-rate dollar, and we are formally and expeditiously investigating the
appropriate funding level for this program, based upon the steps we have taken to improve its
structure and administration. But there is still more work to do.
E-rate modernization is one of the most important issues before the Commission today.
We have an opportunity to make a real, positive difference in the lives of millions of students. I
look forward to working with you and your colleagues toward our mutual goal of increased
access to high-speed broadband in our nation's schools and libraries.
Thank you again for your interest in this important matter. Please do not hesitate to
contact me if you have any further concerns.
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