FCC Seeks Input on Using E-Rate Funds for Remote Learning

We encourage clients to comment in favor of this emergency relief

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact schools and libraries nationwide. In response, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice on Feb. 1 seeking comments on whether or not E-rate program funds can be used to support remote learning during the public health emergency. The FCC has received at least 11 Petitions for Emergency Relief because school and library closures across the country have exposed how many students, teachers, staff, and patrons are without critical broadband connections at home, leaving them unable to participate in any virtual studies.

Interested parties, including JSI clients, have an opportunity to illustrate in their comments how the pandemic has made funding for remote learning an absolute necessity. Comments are due Feb. 16 and reply comments are due Feb. 23. Questions raised for comment in the Public Notice include:

  • What specific equipment and services should E-rate fund to connect remote students and staff to broadband access for online learning?
  • Should the E-rate competitive bidding rules be waived?
  • If the demands for funding for online learning exceed the budget, how will these services be prioritized?
  • Should these services be only directed at students and staff that remain without adequate online learning broadband access?
  • Should students be given vouchers using E-rate funding for discounted broadband service?
  • Should relief apply retroactively to services and equipment purchased during funding year 2020?

For those who subscribe to JSI’s E-Rate Connect Bundle, our E-rate experts will be discussing the Petitions for Emergency Relief as well as submitted comments on our next E-Rate Connect call on Friday, Feb. 19. They’ll also be discussing the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which will use available funding from the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund to support participating providers’ provision of certain broadband services and connected devices to qualifying households, as well as any new initiatives from the FCC and USAC relating to E-rate and Rural Health Care Programs. If you already participate in JSI’s E-rate Connect Bundle, watch your inboxes for the invite!

If you’d like more information on JSI’s E-Rate Connect Bundle or are interested in filing comments, please contact Chresanthe Staurulakis in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590 or Terri DeLong in the Texas office at 512-338-0473.