Monthly Archives: February 2014

White House Summary – ConnectEd

THE WHITE HOUSE

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL: ANSWERING THE PRESIDENT’S CALL TO
ENRICH AMERICAN EDUCATION THROUGH CONNECTED

Year of Action: Making Progress Through Executive Action

Today, following up on his call to action, the President is announcing major progress toward realizing the ConnectED goal to get high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages. The FCC and private sector are taking key steps to answer the President’s call, including through:

 Over $750 million in private-sector commitments to deliver cutting-edge technologies to classrooms, including devices, free software, teacher professional development, and home wireless connectivity.

• American companies are answering the President’s challenge to “dig deep” in support of ConnectED to enrich K-12 education, expand opportunities for students, and train, a 21st century workforce. These commitments include:

o Apple – Pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged schools.

o AT&T – Pledged over $100 million to provide middle-school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years.

o Autodesk – Pledged to expand the company’s “Design the Future” program to be available to every secondary school in the country – offering for free over $250 million in value.

o Microsoft – Committed to launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will substantially bring down the cost of Windows-based devices.

o O’Reilly Media – Partnering with Safari Books Online to make over $100 million in educational content and tools available, for free, to every school in America.

o Sprint – Committed to offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million.

o Verizon – Announced a multi-year program to support the ConnectED vision through up to
$100 million in cash and in-kind commitments.

 A $2 billion down-payment by the FCC’s E-Rate program to connect 20 million more students to next- generation broadband and wireless, beginning in 2014.

 An additional commitment to rural schools with over $10 million in distance learning grants from the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These announcements will help realize next-generation connectivity to 99% of American students within five years, and begin this transformation of American classrooms immediately.

FURTHER DETAIL ON ANSWERING THE PRESIDENT’S CALL TO ENRICH AMERICAN EDUCATION THROUGH CONNECTED

In his State of the Union address, President Obama set an ambitious agenda to make 2014 a year of action: using his pen and his phone to take steps that increase prosperity and opportunity for America’s middle class – including helping more kids prepare for college, gain career-ready skills, and compete in a global economy.

Last June, the President traveled to Mooresville, NC to announce ConnectED, an initiative designed to enrich K-12 education for every student in America – empowering teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowering students though individualized learning and rich, digital content. At the center of that program was a challenge to connect 99% of students to next- generation connectivity within five years, as a foundation for a transformation in the classroom.

Today, fewer than 30% of schools have the broadband they need to teach using today’s technology; under ConnectED, 99% of American students will have access to next-generation broadband by 2017. That connectivity will be the bedrock of a transformation in the classroom experience for all students, regardless of income. As the President said in June, “In a Nation where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”

The President challenged the FCC, Federal agencies, Congress, the private sector, and communities to rise to this challenge and deliver connectivity, professional development for teachers, low-cost learning devices, high-quality educational software, and home access.

Private Sector Commitments to Deliver Next-Generation Teaching and Learning

American companies are answering the President’s challenge to support the enriched K-12 education, expanded opportunity, and the better-trained workforce that ConnectED can help deliver. These commitments amount to over $750 million in direct commitments, and many times more in discounted products and services for America’s students and teachers.

ConnectED is about more than wires and wireless; it’s about getting tablets and laptops into students’ hands, loading them with high-quality educational software and content, training educators on how to use technology to enrich the classroom experience, and ensuring students can continue this learning at home through wireless connectivity.

These commitments will help deliver the ConnectED vision more quickly to more classrooms around the country — particularly those serving low-income students. They will also help make the most of the government and investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put to the best educational use.

$750 Million in New Private-Sector Commitments: Today, the President highlighted some of the most impressive examples of companies rising to meet this challenge, including:

• Apple – In an unprecedented commitment for the company, Apple has pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products along with content and professional development to enrich learning in disadvantaged schools, including interactive learning tools and ongoing support that can have a profound impact for students and teachers in the communities that need it most.

• AT&T – To ensure that when schools embrace the ConnectED vision, the learning does not stop at the school walls, AT&T is committing to provide $100 million in mobile broadband services

over three years to enable educational access for middle school students and related teacher professional development to help them implement technology into the classroom.

• Autodesk – Autodesk, a designer of leading advanced software products in design, drafting, and engineering, has committed to expand the company’s “Design the Future” program to be available to every secondary school in the country in 2014. The program, which offers free 3D design software, project-based curricula, training, and certification, will help secondary school teachers teach critical problem-solving and technical skills in demand, in high-paying STEM
fields like engineering and architecture – offering for free over $250 million in value to American schools.

• Microsoft – Microsoft Corp. is committing to a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its signature Windows operating system, which will substantially bring down the cost of Windows-based devices, and by increasing access to a range of software and services tailored for education, including Bing for Schools, Office 365
Education (making more than 12 million copies of Office available to students for free at qualifying institutions), and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning teacher training resources. For the
roughly 2000 at-risk designated schools in the U.S., Microsoft will give away Microsoft’s IT
Academy program and training – and will donate over $1 million to cover certification exams for students from these schools.

• O’Reilly Media – Through a partnership with Safari Books Online, O’Reilly Media will commit to making over $100 million in educational content and tools such as technology books and publications available, for free, to every school in America. This commitment can provide students at a range of grade levels with the technological skills they need to be prepared in a globalized, digital economy.

• Sprint – Sprint is committing to offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years using schools’ existing or new educational devices provided by other partners. Sprint will begin providing these services beginning with the 2014-
2015 school year and provide up to 3 GB per month on the Sprint network per student on its most advanced network platforms.

• Verizon – The Verizon Foundation announced a multi-year program to support the ConnectED vision through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments, significantly expanding existing and launching new digital learning initiatives. These include expanding the Innovative Learning Schools program to all fifty states, the creation of an Innovative App Challenge to drive more development in underserved curricular areas, and new professional development opportunities for teachers.

Connecting Over 20 Million Students with a Major Down-payment by the FCC: The Federal Communications Commission is announcing a new plan to direct $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand its investment in high-speed connectivity for America’s school and libraries. That investment will begin flowing to schools in 2014, and will focus specifically on the broadband connection and Wi-Fi that too many schools lack, and will be the foundation of the ConnectED transformation of schools. This is an essential down-payment on reaching the President’s goal of connecting 99% of students to high-speed broadband and wireless over the next five years.

Investing in Next-Generation Professional Development: To support teachers as they use new technology to improve learning enabled by ConnectED, the President will request new funding in his

FY2015 Budget for school districts and schools to provide high-quality professional development as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. This funding will enable more school districts to support teachers with tools including instructional coaches, high-quality digital content, blended learning models, and online communication and collaboration. In addition, today the Department of Education is releasing guidance to states, school districts, and schools on ways that existing federal funds can be best leveraged immediately to support schools and educators in the transition to digital learning in support of the President’s ConnectED Initiative. Specifically, the guidance letter outlines ways in which current federal education funding available to states and school districts can be used to provide professional development, access to high-quality digital content, and devices for learning.

About Buck Lodge Middle School

The President made these announcements at Buck Lodge Middle School, a diverse school “on the move”
that is on the path to realize the President’s ConnectED vision.

In 2011, Buck Lodge Middle School was selected as one of four Prince Georges County Public Schools to integrate tablets into the classroom through a program called the Transforming Education through Digital Learning project. Each student receives a tablet as a learning tool to allow access to digital instructional content. The school also leverages two computer labs to round out its technology education.

Every class uses technology every day and lessons are designed around integration of technology to help students create and collaborate using the highest level of technology. Teachers receive training on how to integrate the technology into their classroom instruction, including through a summer academy workshop. Principal James Richardson was named an Apple Distinguished Educator for his work integrating technology at Buck Lodge.

Tom Wheeler; FCC Chairman on eRate and Education Issues

Prepared Remarks of Tom Wheeler Chairman

Federal Communications Commission National Digital Learning Day
The Library of Congress
February 5, 2014
Thank you Governor Wise, not only for your introduction, but most especially for your leadership both when in office and now as president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. Thank you to the educators who are here and online for your dedication to our nation’s most critical asset. And to my
friend, Librarian of Congress Jim Billington, thank you for hosting this important event.

I also want to give you a “teaser” about someone you are going to hear from this afternoon: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. When we at the FCC go looking for counsel on E-Rate and education issues we go to Commissioner Rosenworcel who, for over a dozen years, has made this issue her passion. The E-Rate program is better off because of having a champion and a leader like Jessica Rosenworcel. I am her partner in the effort to bring 21st century connectivity to 21st century students.

The issues being discussed today are a BIG DEAL and are a top priority for me and our Commission. During my tenure as Chairman of the FCC there may be no bigger and more significant issue than making sure our schools and libraries are connected to high-speed broadband networks. That is why E-Rate modernization is at the top of my agenda and why I support President Obama’s goal of connecting 99 percent of all students to high-speed broadband capacity in five years – or faster.

I was in this building almost 18 years ago to the day when President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which enshrined the E-Rate into law. Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Jay Rockefeller, Olympia Snowe, and then-Representative, now Senator, Ed Markey, the powerful concept that Americans should help support bringing connectivity to schools and libraries became law.

We all forget how primitive things were 18 years ago. I was in the mobile phone business at the time and helped create ClassLink, a program that gave mobile phones and free airtime to teachers because, back then, there was no one more isolated than a teacher in the classroom (just consider that…). Only a few blocks from here at J.O. Wilson Elementary School, we experimented with taking that idea one step further by installing mobile phones attached to modems in a crude effort to connect the school to the Internet. It may have been crude, but it worked and we installed such kluges in schools across the country. I was here that historic day 18 years ago because those activities had galvanized the mobile industry to become a proponent of E-Rate. And while we’re talking about people who made a difference

in that effort, we can’t forget FCC Chairman Reed Hundt who, working with Vice President Al Gore, was

the Clinton Administration’s guiding light on what we now know as E-Rate.

Eighteen years ago, the idea of a student-accessible computer in the school building was a revolutionary concept. Many of you here were no doubt in school at that time and recall those realities. Thanks to E-Rate that rarity became commonplace and computers moved into classrooms. Now with the next generation of E-Rate we are harnessing innovation to put that power directly in front of the student.

Three technological changes have increased the need for bandwidth in our schools and libraries. First, inexpensive tablets turn the computer from something in the corner of the classroom (or in the computer lab down the hall), to something on each student’s desk. Second, WiFi means connecting to the Internet is no longer a function of being close enough to the plug on the wall. Finally, the content on the Web has a richness and an up-to-dateness that is available to everyone, regardless of where they live or
their economic circumstances.

Along with the great technological revolutions of two decades ago came another development: the Digital Divide. As my colleague Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has observed, “Broadband has the potential to be the great equalizer for our children.” When we put tablets and notebooks on each student’s desk we take a huge step towards vaulting the Digital Divide. Not only are students connecting to the educational assets that will help them grow, but also they are developing the computer-literacy tools necessary for 21st century jobs. When I was in school we took shop and home economics to develop the rudimentary skills for later life. Very few employees today can be successful without computer skills – and in connected schools students learn those skills daily at their desk. Last week I received a letter from
50 of America’s leading corporate chiefs – from Meg Whitman to Michael Dell to Mark Zuckerberg – in which they described E-Rate as an essential tool for our nation’s competitiveness.

While we talk a lot about the connected school, we cannot overemphasize the crucial role of the connected library. Public libraries have been part of the fabric of America since our country’s founding. Thomas Jefferson, whose personal library was the founding collection of this great institution, described a library as, “a delivery room for the birth of ideas.” Today libraries are also something Mr. Jefferson could never have imagined: the community on-ramp to the world of information (although perhaps I misspeak, he was after all Thomas Jefferson!).

In community after community the library is the only place where students can go after school for free Internet access to complete their assignments. Research has found that a majority of American school children go to the public library to do school work. And for many of those students, it is the only link to the Net outside of school. That is really important when over 75% of K-12 teachers are assigning Internet-

required homework. And during the summer, libraries are the only place for many students to go to continue their online exploration and learning. Libraries are also the only place where tens of millions of adult Americans can get access to the Internet for information on jobs, health care and government
services.

 
schools.

The E-Rate is a program for schools and libraries. Or, let me put it another way: libraries and

So what do we make of this 18th birthday of the E-Rate program? It is an interesting benchmark. At age 18 many students move to the next level of education. So it should be with E-Rate. It is time for E- Rate to graduate and move to the next phase of learning.

President Obama calls it ConnectED. Commissioner Rosenworcel has dubbed it “E-Rate 2.0.” I

simply call it modernization of a great American asset.

The President has set the goal of, within five years, connecting 99 percent of America’s students to digital learning opportunities through high-speed broadband in their schools and libraries. I subscribe
to that goal. Luckily, thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Clyburn, we are not starting from scratch. Last fall the FCC began a process to collect input on the modernization of the E-Rate. Over 1,400 comments were received, and the FCC has held literally hundreds of meetings with interested parties that have helped move the ball forward.

There are three principles that should guide us in the effort to modernize the E-Rate program. One, to focus on the priorities of the 21st century: high-speed connectivity to every school and library and throughout those institutions. Two, to update how we manage the program to make it easier and more productive for schools and libraries. And three, ensuring sufficient resources are made available to meet our modernization goals, starting with a $2 billion down payment on the expansion of high-speed connections over the next two years, while still meeting expectations set by the 2014 program rules.

A little known fact about today’s E-Rate program is that only about half of the program’s funds go for broadband connectivity. Well less than half goes for the kind of 100 mbps and higher speeds necessary for today’s learning environment. In a 2013 National School Speed Test 72 percent of schools – that is nearly 40 million students – didn’t have the access speeds they needed.

I was recently at one middle school where the students told about how the network would crash if too many of them pushed “Enter” simultaneously. They told of having to walk around the room holding their tablets up until they got a WiFi signal. Catherine Sandoval, one of the leading lights in state utility commissions, told me how students in one California school had to be bussed to another school to take

the online core curriculum tests and how students in Beverly Hills were advantaged over students in less affluent schools because they were used to taking tests online whereas other students were not.

When 80 percent of teachers and administrators in schools participating in the E-Rate program say they do not have the bandwidth necessary to meet their educational needs, we have a problem that must be fixed. When roughly half the E-Rate schools access the Internet at speeds that are slower than what many Americans have in their homes – and try to serve hundreds of students (as opposed to the few users in any one home) – we have a crisis that undermines our nation’s future.

We cannot – we will not – let those statistics continue.

We also have a management challenge. The current E-Rate program is burdensome, slow, and not always focused on the right goals. As the managers of the program, the FCC must improve the speed and effectiveness with which E-Rate is run. We must cut through our own bureaucracy, listen to ideas from schools and libraries on how to streamline and improve the process, and find ways to update the management of the program – including practicing what we preach about using the power of the Internet.

In my experience as a businessman I have often found the biggest immediate opportunities are unlocked by first looking carefully at how to do better with what you already have. Should it be necessary to increase the permanent funding levels for the E-Rate program, we will do what is appropriate. Prudently, however, any program funding change must be preceded by an assessment of the use of current funds along with a fact-based analysis of the needs of the program to meet the goals to which we all ascribe. Such a review by the Office of Managing Director of the FCC, led by Jon Wilkins, has begun. By applying a business-like approach, we have identified opportunities for greater productivity within the program, including significant improvements to the way funds are deployed. It is these improvements, for example, that will play a major role in allowing us to double, to $2 billion, the money to be spent on high- speed connections beginning this year.

So what does this mean exactly? Well, first, time is money. One thing we will begin to do immediately for Funding Year 2014 is to make sure that the applications that get the most students the most broadband get moving more quickly. And by “the most students” we don’t mean only those students in large metropolitan areas.

The current program, for instance, penalizes schools that apply jointly with other schools; because their applications are more complex, they often take longer to resolve. Henceforth they will be prioritized. We can start fixing that immediately. To those participating in the program let me be clear, we

will fund all Priority 1 services in 2014; but one of the first ways to accelerate progress is to get cash that is already in the program working to support broadband projects more quickly.

There’s another advantage to consortia and other joint applications – they tend to get better prices for equipment and services by buying in bulk. This means that existing funds go farther. “E-Rate” was originally named to mean there should be a special “education rate” that would be affordable to schools. The more we can do to make sure that schools still get a true education rate for modern high-speed networks, the farther our existing funds will go.

Another way to use existing resources to devote additional funds to high-speed broadband is to improve the efficiency of how we treat old applications – appeals, holds, and other outstanding requests. In some cases, these processes have simply been too slow, with the result that hundreds of millions of
dollars that could have been funding broadband is instead tied up in reserve accounts. We will get to work immediately to get those funds moving.

Everything I just described can begin immediately, starting with the applications in the FY 2014 program that are coming in now and will be completed by the end of March. Under the existing rules we will use improved management and oversight to accelerate the use of funds to enable high-speed connectivity for our schools and libraries. We believe these immediate common sense steps can double the funding of high-speed broadband over the next two years.

Simultaneously with these steps I am going to propose to my fellow Commissioners that we move forward with fundamental structural and administrative changes by issuing an Order later this spring, the results of which would go into effect in 2015. The intent is not to tear down the existing program and start over. Nor is the plan to just provide more money without restructuring the program so that it is designed to best meet the goals we all share. Rather, we should restructure the program in a way that results in a process that effectively targets high capacity connections to all libraries and schools and to provide resources to make sure high-speed WiFi delivers that connectivity within the classroom and
library.

The next concrete step will be the release of a Public Notice in the coming weeks seeking comment on a targeted set of issues. It is premature of me to suggest any details, but it is safe to assume there will be an emphasis on how to appropriately phase out legacy services, including low-bandwidth connections, and reprioritize on broadband. My goal is to have this process completed before students return to classrooms in the fall.

It was an exciting day at the Library of Congress 18 years ago. Yet few of us imagined how 18 years later the Internet would affect every corner of our lives. We here today are likewise unable to predict the future – but we can build the pathway to that future, beginning with 21st century education tools for 21st century students.

Update on eRate and ConnectEd… the future changing

 

Recently, President Obama gave a speech reaffirming his ConnectED pledge to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed broadband within five years.  As the President put it: “In a Nation where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”

The President pointed to $750 million in new private-sector commitments to schools for non-E-rate goods and services from Apple, Autodesk, Microsoft, O’Reilly Media, and cellular carriers AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. (Items not listed as eligible for eRate discount)

On the E-rate front, the President outlined a new FCC “plan to direct $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand its investment in high-speed connectivity for America’s schools and libraries. That investment will begin flowing to schools in 2014, and will focus specifically on the broadband connection and Wi-Fi that too many schools lack, and will be the foundation of the ConnectED transformation of schools.”

On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Wheeler made a presentation (see article: “Tom Wheeler; FCC Chairman on eRate and Education Issues)  emphasizing his personal commitment to ConnectED’s goals, stating: “During my tenure as Chairman of the FCC there may be no bigger and more significant issue than making sure our schools and libraries are connected to high-speed broadband networks.”  He went on to indicate that the FCC would be “applying a business-like approach” to E-rate “allowing us to double, to $2 billion, the money to be spent on high-speed connections beginning this year.”

The promise to double E-rate funding on broadband, starting this year, garnered a lot of press.  But what did the Chairman mean by “this year?”  And what do the Chairman’s remarks really mean for E-rate applicants?  Our answer — at least in the short-term — is “not much.”

The first half of “this year” — if that means calendar 2014 — is the second half of FY 2013.  The Chairman’s talk didn’t mention FY 2013 at all, and we expect no changes.  E-rate is already on track to fund all valid Priority 1 requests, including broadband, in the current funding year.  As indicated above, we expect the FCC to shortly approve the denial of all FY 2013 Priority 2 requests.

FY 2014 begins in the second half of calendar 2014.  The Chairman promised to “fund all Priority 1 services in 2014.”  With the roll-over we expect to be available for FY 2014 (see below), we were already projecting full Priority 1 funding.  The Chairman said nothing about Priority 2 for FY 2014 which, if Priority 1 continues to increase, will be difficult to fund at any level.

The one concrete change for FY 2014 that the Chairman did mention was a plan to prioritize the review and approval of “consortia and other joint applications” to “accelerate” funding so as “to get cash that is already in the program working to support broadband projects more quickly.”  Taking the position that “time is money,” the Chairman appears to mean that “more money” for broadband, at least this year, really means the same “money more quickly.”

The one reference the Chairman made to “more money” was the following single sentence:  “Should it be necessary to increase the permanent funding levels for the E-Rate program, we will do what is appropriate” — in other words, no new funding for now.

So much for the short-term; but what about the long-term?  The best way to interpret the promise to double E-rate funding on broadband, beginning this year, is to focus on the word “beginning.”

Most importantly, what the Chairman indicated was that the FCC would “release a Public Notice in the coming weeks seeking comment on a targeted set of issues.”  The apparent goal is to fast track a restructuring of E-rate, effective for FY 2015, to re-prioritize existing E-rate funding to broadband.  Without providing details, the Chairman indicated that this would include:

  1. Phasing out “legacy services, including low-bandwidth connections.”
  2. Targeting “high capacity connections” to ensure “high-speed WiFi” to all classrooms and libraries.

Reading between the lines, this suggests an end to Priority 1 and Priority 2, as we know them today.  In the future, the highest priority will be on broadband services all the way to the classroom, with a focus on end-user wireless access in schools and libraries.

From an applicant perspective, our bottom line view on last week’s speeches is that there was no “ado” about FY 2013, little “ado” about FY 2014, and much “ado” about FY 2015 and beyond.  What comes next is the release of the FCC’s Public Notice, probably by March.

ConnectED and Additional Broadband Funding

On Wednesday, February 5th, FCC Chairman Wheeler is scheduled to make an E-rate presentation at Digital Learning Day.  There is a growing sense of anticipation that the Chairman’s remarks will provide some substance to the recent hints of additional and/or redirected E-rate funding.

As reported the Official FCC Blog carried an article by Chairman Wheeler entitled “Helping American Students Compete in a Digital World.”  The article stressed the FCC’s commitment to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed broadband within five years, suggesting that the FCC could “use existing funds to immediately begin to expand E-Rate funding targeted to high-speed connectivity to students in schools and libraries.”

President Obama’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday, while not addressing E-rate directly, renewed his commitment to ConnectED, stating:

“Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.”

The reference to corporate support, together with a separate White House indication that the President will announce additional philanthropic partnerships in the coming weeks, suggests that this is part of a ConnectED goal to build on private-sector innovation, rather than to increase Erate funding.

Commenting on the President’s address, however, FCC Chairman Wheeler did stress the importance of E-rate funding and forthcoming changes, stating:

“Harnessing the power of digital technology is central to improving our education system and our global competitiveness. In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive. The Federal Communications Commission shares the President’s commitment to seizing the opportunities of digital learning, which is why we’ve already launched an effort to modernize our successful E-Rate program – the nation’s largest education technology program. By applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers. Together, with my fellow Commissioners, Congress, educators and other stakeholders, we can ensure that all of America’s students get a 21st-century education.”

There are two basic ways to increase E-rate funding for broadband connectivity.  One is to increase, at least on a temporary basis, industry contributions into the Universal Service Fund (“USF”).  This could be done either by increasing the contribution rate or by expanding the base of contributors.  The former approach was suggested by the White House last year following President Obama’s initial ConnectED speech.  Last week, however, Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sent a letter to the FCC expressing concern at the recently ballooning cost of the USF program, and urging the Chairman to refer any proposed expansion of the program to the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.

The other approach to increasing broadband funding, which would not require additional USF contributions, would be to shift dollars around within the Fund itself.  There are several ways to do this, including:

  1. Change the eligibility or priorities of E-rate services to favor broadband deployment.  This is the gist of an article appearing in yesterday’s New York Times, based on an anonymous FCC official, reporting on a plan to double spending on broadband using roll-over funds and by eliminating discounts on “outdated technologies.”
  2. Rebalance funding between the four separate USF funds to provide more money for Erate and less money for one or more of the other three programs.
  3. Take advantage of the ADA (Anti-Deficiency Act) exemption, temporarily granted only through 2015, to commit E-rate funds over and above the existing annual cap.

Based on what we learn from Chairman Wheeler’s presentation later this week, we may discuss one or more funding options in more detail in a later newsletter.  For now, stay tuned — or, more specifically, tune into the Chairman’s presentation.

Funding Status For Current Funding Years

 

The FY 2014 application window opened January 9, 2014, and will close on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Wave 37 for FY 2013 will be released on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, for $26.3 million.  Funding is currently being provided for Priority 1 services only.  Cumulative funding for FY 2013 will be $1.77 billion.

Wave 120 for FY 2010 and Wave 76 for FY 2012 will be released on Thursday, February 6th.  Wave 108 for FY 2011 is scheduled for Friday, February 7th.