E-rate/Schools and Libraries Program
Democratic congressional staffers are signaling fresh optimism that some money for broadband will make it into another coronavirus relief package long mulled on Capitol Hill. Republicans are “proceeding politically a little more cautiously right now” in deference to GOP leadership, but “we know privately that there are Republicans that would be very supportive of spending more money on E-Rate or Lifeline or Rural Healthcare,” said Joey Wender, senior policy adviser to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
Representatives of rural and Native communities share stories about the experience of lacking a broadband connection when the service is necessary to work, study, and obtain healthcare, safely. These brief anecdotes illustrate the negative impact that substandard service or lack of service has on the safety and wellbeing of rural and Native communities in general, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors offer the Federal Communications Commission 12 recommendations:
In a statement to the House Commerce Committee, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency has received around 2,200 complaints related to theCOVID-19 pandemic. Of those complaints, 1,400 have received a response from the carrier, Chairman Pai said. Around 500 of those total complaints were filed specifically about the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, the agency’s primary response to the pandemic.
The House on narrowly passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package crafted by Democrats. The bill passed by a vote of 208-199 and now heads to the Senate. One Republican backed the bill, while 14 Democrats voted against it. The House also passed a resolution to temporarily change House rules to allow for proxy voting and remote committee work during the pandemic, an unprecedented shift to how the chamber operates. It passed mostly along party lines.
A years-long headache for the Park Hill (Kansas City, MO) School District has finally come to a satisfying resolution that could benefit schools and libraries across the US. Since Feb 2018, Park Hill has wrestled with the federal government to obtain E-rate funding for a fiber project connecting several of its schools. On April 27, the Federal Communications Commission finally granted Park Hill’s E-rate funding request in a decision that also sets a good precedent for the larger community of E-rate applicants.
Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a new COVID-19 stimulus bill that includes, among other things, billions in broadband benefit programs.
Forty-six senators introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is the Senate companion to legislation recently introduced by Rep Grace Meng (NY-06), but makes one important change: increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion.
The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance (SECA), and Funds for Learning (FFL) have developed a proposal for Congress to provide one-time funding so that school students, teachers, and library patrons can obtain broadband at home, end-user devices (such as laptops and tablets), and cybersecurit
On May 9, 2020, USAC issued the first wave of Funding Year (FY) 2020 Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs). FY2020 Wave 1 included almost $680.7 million in funding commitments, and funding decisions on over 53% of the 38,207 applications that were received on or before the close of the FY2020 application filing window on April 29, 2020. Funds for Learning notes that the wave came only ten days after the close of the filing window, and was a record-setting funding wave by all accounts: