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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bipartisan agreement on one thing

Congress is weighing in on the E-Rate.  Here's a summary of letters I've seen.

Senators Rockefeller and Markey, who call themselves (with some justification) "the founders of the E-Rate," wrote a letter on Tuesday with a few criticisms:
  1. "It would be ill-advised to guarantee a permanent set-aside for Wi-Fi....  All basic Internet connectivity requests...should be honored before Wi-Fi funding is made available."  
  2. "We are opposed to...per student or per square feet distribution mechanisms for any aspect of E-Rate..."
  3. "The permanent funding cap for the E-Rate program needs to be raised."
I pretty much agree with the founders of the E-Rate.  They even use a capital "R" in "E-Rate"!

Senator Thune released a statement yesterday saying:
  1. "Chairman Wheeler ... cannot realistically expect to pay for [his proposal] without forcing Americans to pay more for communications services or diverting E-Rate funds that support necessary connectivity...."
  2. "If Chairman Wheeler is unable to move forward with reforms that have the bipartisan support of his FCC colleagues, he should postpone Friday’s scheduled vote...."
I agree with #1.  Most educators and lawwmakers would agree that voice connectivity is necessary for schools, but all the proposals I've seen divert funding away from that necessary connectivity.  As for #2, bipartisanship is so last century.  I'd like to see the Chairman turn each major part of the reforms into a separate order, and then vote on each of them separately.  It would be fun to see how that plays out.

Representatives Upton and Walden wrote today, with different criticisms:
  1. "Recent reports raise concerns about your commitment to work within existing funds."  
  2. "We are also troubled by press reports that you have promised to increase the E-Rate budget...."
I agree with the representatives' use of the capital "R" in "E-Rate," but otherwise....  When did the Chairman make a commitment to work within existing funds?  I keep hearing him say he'll increase the fund if warranted.  But I haven't heard him say it's warranted.

Senators Sabenow and Levin wrote today to say:
  1. "We oppose...a per student or per square feet calculation for Wi-Fi."
  2. "We also oppose changing the program's poverty calculation from school-based to district-based...."
I agree with #1, but I think the district-level discount is better; it can eliminate a lot of small complexities in the program.

If both sides of the aisle dislike the Chairman's proposal, does that mean it's a good compromise? 

What one principle unites all the congresspeople?  "E-Rate" with a big "R"!


  1. Sen. Ayotte has also weighed in:
    Her points:
    1) "Minor tweaks to the current system will fail to address these urgent needs"
    2) "New Hampshire contributed over $10.3 million [to the E-Rate], but received only $2.6 million"
    3) "reducing the paperwork needed to apply for funding"
    4) "distributing aid to schools on a more equitable per-student basis"
    5) "until reforms like these are adopted, the FCC should not consider an increase in the size of the E-Rate budget."
    6) "the Commission must work in a bipartisan manner"

    Clearly Sen. Ayotte likes Pai. The letter could have been written by him.

    The senator is very right about one thing: NH gets a very low amount of E-Rate funding. Why? Because NH's school districts are, generally, tiny in both enrollment and square miles. The small distances keep telecom expenses lower than, say, Wyoming, and the tiny enrollments mean that each district's potential E-Rate funding is small, and the application process is still just as heinous, so a lot of NH districts don't bother to apply. Oh, and NH doesn't have a giant city to suck up lots of P2 dollars.

    As for the most crucial question: yes, Sen. Ayotte capitalized the "R."

  2. The whole Kansas delegation weighed in on the last day, just asking the Commission to delay the vote: