After Net Neutrality, Experts Expect Changes to FCC’s E-Rate

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With network neutrality in the rearview mirror, is E-Rate next on the Federal Communications Commission’s chopping block?  Experts admit it’s possible, if unlikely, but suggest a more probable series of modest changes in the short term. “I understand there are concerns about [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai,” says John Harrington, CEO of the E-Rate consultancy Funds For Learning. “But the tea leaves for E-Rate are pretty positive actually.” While Chairman Pai has sent mixed messages around E-Rate, Harrington is heartened by the fact that the FCC opened up a special filing window late in 2017 for schools directly impacted by the recent hurricanes impacting the Caribbean. In 2018, the FCC could move to begin a more general process of “remodernizing” the program by making changes to Category 2 funding, which covers discounts to defray ongoing broadband service costs for things like hardwired internet access, Wi-Fi and basic equipment maintenance. While a reduction in funding is possible, Harrington and others are hoping for a two-year pause to let the current Category 2 cycle play itself out. “My guess is if [the FCC] could get the administration of the program to run more effectively, you’ll see the demand rise,” Harrington says. “When the demand rises, they’ll see they need to keep the cap. It’s a crazy Catch-22 right now where it looks like the demand is lower than the cap.”


After Net Neutrality, Experts Expect Changes to FCC’s E-Rate