Today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in a new fact sheet that he has circulated a draft of the much-anticipated E-rate order to his fellow Commissioners for their review. It is expected that the FCC will vote on the Order, presumably with some changes, at its July 11 open meeting.
As shown in the fact sheet and a companion blog entry by Chairman Wheeler posted on the Commission's website today, some of the key reforms in the draft E-rate order are:
- Allocating $1 billion in 2015 to funding Wi-Fi connections for over 10 million students, and another $1 billion in 2016, then “predictable support continuing in future years.”
- Increased matching fund requirements for schools. The poorest schools will need to match $1 for every $4 of E-rate funding. Current program rules permit a 1:10 matching for the nation's poorest schools.
- Support for non-broadband services will be phased out over multiple years, including "dial-up phone service" and pagers
- Applications from consortia will be fast-tracked, although the fact sheet does not provide details of how this will happen.
- A plan to “leverage” GSA pricing, although it is not clear how.
- Adoption of a multi-year application process, which has been widely supported by schools and industry.
- Various measures to simplify the application process.
It is anticipated that a vote to adopt the order at its July 11 open meeting will enable the new rules to become effective before the start of the next E-rate funding cycle.