Experts: eRate changes certain, but details unknown

Stephens said the comments revealed a few common themes and changes:

  • Availability of funds: Commenters overwhelmingly suggested that the FCC increase the amount of money available to the eRate program. Other commenters suggested changes in the discount matrix, capping the maximum discount at different levels for different types of services (i.e., Priority 1 services can be discounted up to 90 percent, while Priority 2 services could be discounted up to 50 percent).
  • Eligibility: The NPRM made mention of changes to products and services funded under the eRate. Most commenters were in favor of retaining web hosting as an eligible service. There was mixed opinion on whether support for voice service and basic maintenance should be eligible. Commenters also explored defining technology standards, such as the number of wifi points a school needs, and the quality of network connections. Some organizations left comments urging the establishment of minimum connection criteria—how much bandwidth a school needs, how many wireless access points adequately cover a school, and the standards of quality that should factor into these evaluations.
  • Other areas concerning potential changes: Commenters also touched on new funding allocation rules, new or simplified forms, changing competitive bidding requirements, new measurements and metrics, and new process requirements.

“We know for certain that the FCC is going to be making changes, and evaluating input from everybody who supplies it,” Stephens said.

Laura Ascione

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