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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Going Rural

[Note from the future: in an erratum to the E-Rate Modernization Order, the FCC reversed course and now urban clusters are considered Urban.  So my conclusions below are reversed.]

[And from still further in the future: the FCC reversed their reversal in the Second E-Rate Modernization Order by saying that only large urban clusters were Urban, so the conclusions below are correct again.]

The Chairman mentioned that a reform goal was to see that Rural applicants don't get "cut out" of funding, and Commissioner Pai was way into ensuring Rural applicants got lots of funding, even suggesting that Rural applicants get twice the funding of the non-rural.

Well, I think I have some good news for them: funding for Rural applicants will go up.  But not the way they're thinking.  What will drive up funding for Rural applicants?  The new system for determining Rural/Urban status will create more Rural applicants in a couple of ways.  First, by looking directly at MSAs, instead of looking at counties, some Rural schools which were in Urban counties will now be classified as Rural.  Second, some schools in Urban areas will become Rural because the majority of schools in their district are Rural, which makes the district Rural, which means all the schools in the district are treated as Rural.

So I think we'll see the percentage of C1 funding going to Rural applicants increase, because the percentage of applicants that are Rural will increase.  I'm not sure how large the effect will be, though.  [Alas, schools and libraries are often built in towns instead of the countryside, which means a lot of schools in rural areas will find themselves in an urban cluster.  With the change in rules, I think the shift is reversed, so there will be more Urban applicants, meaning Rural applicants will get less funding.]  [Not so after the change to only large urban clusters being counted as Urban. While I think a lot of schools serving rural areas are located in small urban clusters, I don't think there are very many located in large urban clusters.]

It won't matter in C2 in the short run, because only applicants with a high concentration of poverty will get any C2 in the next 2 years, and there won't be any C2 funding after that. Rural applicants tend not to have the concentration of poverty necessary to get into the top discount levels, so C2 funding will continue to go to the big urban applicants.  [The Second E-Rate Modernization sure changed that equation; everyone should be able to get C2 funding some time in the next 5 years.]

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