Senate Commerce Committee Questions E-Rate Modernization

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The Senate Committee that oversees the E-Rate program (Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation) will hold a hearing tomorrow titled 'Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission". The hearing will cover multiple topics and give Senators the opportunity to make inquiries about the agency's FY16 budget request, completed and pending rulemaking/enforcement activities, and efforts to improve processes/efficiency. Read the full Notice Memo.

I call your action to the slightly alarmist tone surrounding the FCC's 214 actions to modernize the E-Rate program and to provide funding commensurate with program demand and implementation:

E-rate Program Expansion: In December 2014, by a partisan 3-2 vote, the FCC increased universal service fees on the American public by more than $15 billion over the next decade.13 Specifically, this post-election action by the FCC raised the annual E-rate spending cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion, plus future indexing for inflation. This 63% fee increase will, in large part, fund expansions to the program adopted by the FCC in July 2014, by another partisan 3-2 vote.14 The July order obligated $5 billion in E-rate spending to provide Wi-Fi capabilities to school classrooms and libraries. At the time, the FCC suggested this new spending would be fully offset by using previously unobligated funds within the E-rate program and efficiencies produced by reforming support for legacy services. The E-rate program lacks sufficient metrics to determine its effectiveness and need. The program is also not based on the actual costs of service, but rather a system whereby the relative poverty of a school's student population is used as a proxy for such school's relative ability to afford communications services. E-rate's distribution scheme consistently results in lower funding for relatively poor rural areas of the country and higher funding for relatively wealthy and densely populated cities.

Please take a moment to contact your Senator and let them know what E-Rate is and what it means to your district.

In particular, I have listed the members of the Senate Commerce Committee below. If your Senator is listed here, they especially would benefit from hearing directly from E-Rate beneficiaries about the program, the need for the modernization and the need for adequate funding.

 

Name Party State Phone Number
Senator Ayotte R New Hampshire 202-224-3324
Senator Blumenthal D Connecticut 202-224-2823
Senator Blunt R Missouri 202-224-5721
Senator Booker D New Jersey 202-224-3224
Senator Cantwell D Washington 202-224-3441
Senator Cruz R Texas 202-224-5922
Senator Daines R Montana 202-224-2651
Senator Fischer R Nebraska 202-224-6551
Senator Gardner R Colorado 202-224-5941
Senator Heller R Nevada 202-224-6244
Senator Johnson R Wisconsin 202-224-5323
Senator Klobuchar D Minnesota 202-224-3244
Senator Manchin D West Virginia 202-224-3954
Senator Markey D Massachusetts 202-224-2742
Senator McCaskill D Missouri 202-224-6154
Senator Moran R Kansas 202-224-6521
Senator Nelson D Florida 202-224-5274
Senator Peters D Michigan 202-224-6221
Senator Rubio R Florida 202-224-3041
Senator Schatz D Hawaii 202-224-3934
Senator Sullivan R Alaska 202-224-3004
Senator Thune R South Dakota 202-224-2321
Senator Udall D New Mexico 202-224-6621
Senator Wicker R Mississippi 202-224-6253

 


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