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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dancing Deckchairs

Reaction to Chairman Wheeler's reform proposal has been swift and unkind.

The President of ISTE released a statement calling the reforms "a step backwards."  Ouch!  "Let’s stop rearranging the deckchairs."  Zing!  And it ends with a call to action: "Join us in telling Chairman Wheeler to raise the E-Rate’s cap now and make our shared vision for connected classrooms and libraries a reality. Tweet to @FCC using the hashtag: #RaiseTheErateCap."  Are dingoes on Twitter?

Meanwhile, a gaggle of education associations sent a letter to the commissioners, saying:
  1. "We believe any effort to modernize the E-rate Program must include increasing the E-rate funding cap."
  2. "Moving away from a need-based method by incorporating a per-pupil allocation erodes the equitable distribution of E-rate fund...."
When President Obama first announced his ConnectED initiative, I thought he was running it through the E-Rate because the FCC can increase the size of the E-Rate without congressional approval.  The administration was estimating how much the USF fee on phone bills would increase.  So why has Chairman Wheeler changed it from an increase in funding for technology to a "modernization" and refocus on broadband and Wi-Fi?

One other note on the letter from educators: they mentioned a per-square-foot funding formula for libraries.  I don't recall hearing that one before.  That will benefit older communities, and communities with shrinking populations, as they will have oversized libraries, whereas newer suburbs will tend to have undersized libraries.


  1. Anonymous5:47 PM

    Maybe Wheeler is a Republican plant

    1. Based on the pattern of his political contributions, it's more likely that he's a dingo than that he's a Republican.

  2. SETDA is nicer, applauding the momentum, which is a very nice way to say "more needs to be done." And after parroting the platitude that everyone is using about predictable funding, they added that it "will necessitate increased investments...." I guess SETDA believes the maxim about catching more flies with honey.

    Politico is reporting that "major beneficiary groups" are “incensed”: "We are extremely disappointed with Chairman Wheeler’s decision to move forward with his proposed E-Rate modernization order in the face of school and library objections to some of its proposed structural changes and its failure to provide new funding for this desperately underfunded program.” But you have to be a subscriber to read more, like who said those things.

  3. The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, used the headline "FCC E-Rate proposal is bad public policy."

  4. The pressure may have nudged attitudes at the FCC. The National Journal did a story on the backlash and is reporting: "An FCC official emphasized that the agency has not ruled out increasing the overall size of the program if it's necessary to meet the president's goals. The current proposal may only be a first step, the official said."

  5. And here's a more complete criticism from Hillary Goldman of ISTE:
    The main point: "We support a substantial, permanent increase in E-Rate’s annual funding cap...."

    The blog post has more details, so maybe ISTE got a peek at the actual proposal.

    They confirm the rumored name change from "Priority 2" to "Category II."

    Category II will have a $1 billion pot assigned to it.

    Districts will get $150/student (pre-discount, it would appear), with a minimum of $6,000 per location (or maybe per applicant; I can't really tell from).

    1-in-5 is a go, but it looks like they're going to let everyone apply, and just give money to the districts with the highest discount. (I hope there is a plan for what to do if 80% applicants request more than $1 billion.) So all you 40% districts can just keep applying until 2020-21, when you'll maybe get your funding. (But if a Republican becomes President in 2017, then maybe Pai becomes Chairman, and he has other ideas....)

  6. The AASA and some organizations have come out in opposition to the per-student funding and district-wide discount calculation, and say, "“Any effort to modernize the E-Rate program must include the infusion of new, sustained funding."

  7. If you read through the comments to Docket 13-184 (, you'll see a lot of suspiciously similar comments in opposition to per-student funding. I wonder who's the source of these spamments? And still the FCC hasn't published anything about per-student allocation. The backlash is based on statements from people who apparently heard someone from the FCC say they were going to give out $150/student.

    One of the results of the lack of transparency concerning the new rule is that a lot of applicants are clearly under the impression that the per-student allocation will apply to Category I (née Priority 1), while those who have heard people from the FCC talk have the impression that it will only apply to Category II (née Priority 2).

  8. The AASA is encouraging members to write to the FCC:
    They've also done a summary of the proposed reforms:

    That summary starts out as just a description of the proposed reforms, but opinion starts to creep in, and by the end, it's just a weird screed about neutrality that doesn't make any sense to me. ("Need neutral" = "you are neediest, you receive funding first"; isn't that the opposite of neutral?)

    What's this? "The FCC is considering a pilot project that could be available only 
    to libraries...." I wonder what that is.