Arkansans Speak Out to FCC on E-Rate

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

You’ve probably heard that the Federal Communications Commission proposed some changes to its E-Rate program earlier this year.

The program, created in 1997, is intended to connect public venues, particularly schools and libraries, to the Internet. It costs about $2 billion per year. The FCC’s proposal involves putting more money into faster Internet and tossing out obsolete technology.

The agency started taking comments on its proposal in the summer, and some of the hundreds of suggestions posted on the FCC’s website are from Arkansas:

• "Reduce paperwork and complexity," said Shawn Witt of Prairie Grove. “It shouldn’t be so complicated and tedious that we have to hire consultants. Provide more funding for schools with lower [free and reduced] lunch rates.”

• "We need significant infusion of funds to support online testing," said Rhonda Dickey of North Little Rock. “The application process should be less intensive and more user friendly to educators.”

• Benny Gooden, superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools, submitted a two-page letter with seven bullet points’ worth of recommendations.

“In summary,” he wrote, “the FCC should address current needs before launching new programs; should increase flexibility for the use of E-Rate funds; and should streamline the entire process.”

• Finally, David Henderson of Prairie Grove said the FCC should stop paying public entities entirely.

“I personally think there needs to be a shift from school/library-based funding to a community-based funding program,” he said.

“No, I don’t know what that looks like, but we should be focusing on those folks who actually PAY to use the [Universal Service Fund] tax to be the recipients of that tax. E-Rate funds should be used to increase bandwidth to areas currently receiving less than 10Mbps per household.”



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