TR Daily Bureau Recommends Continued Use of Five-Year E-Rate Category Two Budgets
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Monday, February 11, 2019

Bureau Recommends Continued Use of Five-Year E-Rate Category Two Budgets

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau today recommended that the Commission retain the five-year budget approach it adopted in 2014 for E-rate support for internal connections (category two support) and “avoid a return to the prior so-called ‘two-in-five rules’ approach,” which limits category support for any individual school and library to two out of every five years.

“This recommendation is based on the data showing clear improvements in the way in which funding for internal connections has been administered since Funding Year (FY) 2015 and is supported by the Public Notice comments [TR Daily, Oct. 26, 2017]” the bureau said in a report adopted in WC docket 13-184.

“In addition, we recommend that the Commission consider modifications to the existing category two budget approach to enhance the ability of the E-Rate program to provide funding to schools and libraries to support high-speed connectivity. For example, the Bureau recommends raising the funding floor if the Commission finds that insufficient funding is deterring participation by schools and libraries at the funding floor,” it added.

The funding is currently $9,200 per site over a five-year budget period, with additional funding over the five years up to $150 per student for schools and $2.30 or $5 per square foot for libraries, depending on their location.

When it adopted the five-year budget approach, the FCC also established a test-period during which the bureau was to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the approach.

In today’s report, the bureau said the five-year budget approach has resulted in more category two funding being committed, despite lower demand, with less year-to-year variation; more widely disbursed category funding; a distribution of funding that more closely approximates overall participation; and greater apparent flexibility for applicants to plan network deployment and maintenance.

In a statement, John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB (Schools, Healthcare, and Libraries Broadband) Coalition, said, “The FCC Bureau's report on E-rate category 2 confirms what SHLB members actively experience — that the budget approach enables schools and libraries to upgrade their Internet access, and promotes individualized learning and public access to information.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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