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Commissioner Pai Statement on WCB's PN Addressing E-Rate Modernization

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Released: March 7, 2014

NEWS
Federal Communications Commission

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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC

, 515 F.2d 385 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT

:
March 7, 2014
Matthew Berry (202) 418-2005
Email: Matthew.Berry@fcc.gov

STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI

ON THE PUBLIC NOTICE OF THE WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU

ADDRESSING E-RATE MODERNIZATION

Now is the time to get moving with E-Rate reform. Whether you call it a student-centered E-Rate
program, E-Rate 2.0, the ConnectED Initiative, or E-Rate modernization, our teachers and students need
real reform of the 18-year-old E-Rate program. As I said back when the Commission commenced this
proceeding: “We should not tinker around the edges. We should shoot for the moon. And we should
aim to win.”1
And yet, I fear that the Public Notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau yesterday bodes
poorly for real reform.2 Reform should mean eliminating the priority system that arbitrarily favors some
technologies over others. Yet the Public Notice doubles down on it.3 Reform should mean abolishing the
discount matrix that encourages wasteful spending by well-funded districts and consistently underfunds
small, rural schools and libraries. Yet the Public Notice builds on it.4 And although the Public Notice
mentions streamlining the administrative process, the proposals to do so (such as making “simple
changes” to the existing forms or changing “invoicing deadlines”)5 are overwhelmed by proposals that
would saddle our nation’s teachers and librarians with more paperwork.6

1 Modernizing the E-Rate Program for Schools and Libraries, WC Docket No. 13-184, Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking, 28 FCC Rcd 11304, 11477 (2013) (Statement of Commissioner Ajit Pai).
2 Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-Rate Modernization, WC Docket No. 13-184, Public
Notice, DA 14-308 (Wireline Comp. Bur. 2014) (Public Notice).
3 See, e.g., id. at 5–8, paras. 10–23 (seeking comment on “allocating annually a set amount of E-Rate funds” for a
subset of priority 2 services); id. at 16, para. 47 (seeking comment on a new tier of “support for voice services under
a lower priority”).
4 See, e.g., id. at 8, para. 21 & App. A (seeking comment on using the discount matrix to “set [priority 2] funding
levels for each applicant); id. at 9, para. 28 (seeking comment on raising the discount rate, already at 90 percent for
some applicants, an additional 10 percent if used for deployment); id. at 10, para. 31 (seeking comment on
prioritizing applications for deployment costs based on the discount matrix).
5 Id. at 12, para. 38; id. at 12, para. 39.
6 See, e.g., id. at 7, para. 17 (noting the need for new “safeguards” given new incentives applicants may have “to
inflate their original requests in their first year of eligibility”); id. at 11, para. 32 (seeking comment on requiring
applicants to “calculate the total number of students currently in buildings without infrastructure capable of meeting
Commission-adopted speed goals”); id. at 12, para. 36 (seeking comment on requiring applicants to file technology
plans).

Moreover, even if the right questions were posed, this is the wrong way to pose them. If the
Commission needs to focus comment on an issue, we should advance a concrete proposal—which in the
words of the FCC’s own process reform report “ensure[s] adequate notice of the potential final rule” and
“focus[es] both drafters and commenters on the precise proposal under consideration.”7 And if the
Commission wants to explore a new proposal, we should issue a further notice of proposed rulemaking to
comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.8 Either course requires Commission-
level action since the Wireline Competition Bureau cannot propose new rules,9 which is why I requested
that the item be placed on circulation as a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a Commission vote
after I received it. The Bureau nevertheless issued the Public Notice, depriving Commissioners of an
opportunity to weigh in on an issue that President Obama has described as “a new challenge for
America—one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around
together.”10
Parents and students, teachers and librarians are counting on us to move forward with
fundamental reform of the program, not just adding more complexity to a program that is already too
complicated. With almost 1,600 comments in the docket, I believe that we cannot wait any longer—that
we need real reform now. I said it when we adopted the NPRM and reiterate here: I stand ready to work
with my colleagues, and soon, to adopt E-Rate reforms that bring the full promise of digital opportunity to
America’s children. I hope that as the Commission moves forward, it gives Commissioners a full and fair
opportunity for input and avoids the procedural pitfalls that can stand in the way of meaningful progress.

7 Report on FCC Process Reform from the Staff Working Group led by Diane Cornell, GN Docket No. 14-25,
Recommendation 3.8 (Feb. 14, 2014), available at http://go.usa.gov/KTAz.
8 5 U.S.C. § 553(b).
9 47 C.F.R. § 0.291(e).
10 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, President Obama Unveils ConnectED Initiative to Bring
America’s Students into Digital Age, http://go.usa.gov/KTPw (June 6, 2013).

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