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August 11, 2014


The Honorable Billy Long

U.S. House ofRepresentatives

1541 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Long:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about modernizing the E-rate program. In your

letter, you express concerns about the source of funding for Wi-Fi and that proposals to adopt a

single flat rate ofE-rate funding per student, as well as eliminate support for voice and web

hosting services, would undermine disadvantage rural schools, such as those in your district.

Your views are very important, and will be included in the record of the proceeding and

considered as part of the Commission's review.

As you are aware, as part of the Commission's E-rate modernization effort, I am

committed to ensuring that theE-rate program evolves to provide support for 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.

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 far more rural schools

and libraries than in the past. Given that 40 percent of classrooms 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 utilizes savings associated with transitioning support from non-broadband

services to broadband. At the same time, the Order ensures that adequate funding will also be

available for broadband connectivity to schools and libraries, and seeks further comment on the

long-term funding needs of the program.

With respect to your concerns on per-student funding, the Order establishes a multi-year

budget for internal connections services, such as Wi-Fi, that will serve our goal of ensuring

affordable access to high-speed broadband for schools and libraries as we continue to evaluate

long term program needs. Over the next two funding years, schools will be eligible for E-rate

funding on purchases of up to $150 (pre-discount) per student. Similarly, libraries may request

E-rate support of up to $2.30 (pre-discount) per square foot for internal connections services over


Page 2-The Honorable Billy Long

a five-year period, consistent with a recommendation by the American Library Association and

data submitted by numerous individual library systems. To ensure these budgets are sufficient to

meet the minimum demand that certain schools and libraries might have regardless of size, the

Order establishes a pre-discount funding floor of $9,200 for each school or library. These

figures are based on the best available data provided to the Commission and will be reassessed

over time. The accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks further comment

on the per-square foot and per-student budgets for support of internal connections.

I understand fully your concern and agree that voice and web hosting services can be a

valuable tool for school districts. The issue we face is how best to prioritize E-rate dollars so

that all schools have the underlying broadband connectivity necessary for students and teachers

to take advantage of the growing universe of available digital learning tools, as well as so

libraries can serve their communities. Simply put, if broadband is the priority, then too many

funds were being spent on non-broadband activities.

Schools need broadband connectivity to take advantage of digital learning technologies,

and libraries need to provide their patrons with high-speed access to the Internet. I recognize the

E-rate program has previously supported a variety of services, such as voice services and web

hosting. However, I firmly believe that, in order to meet educational needs, the E-rate program

must place a priority on ensuring that every school in America has a high-speed broadband

connection and high-speed Wi-Fi in every classroom. Unfortunately, meeting that goal has

meant redirecting funds previously spent on other activities, such as voice services and web


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.

Tom Wheeler

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