Rosenworcel: E-rate Rulemaking Imminent

FCC Commissioner Says Revamp of School Broadband Subsidy Program Could Likely Launch Next Week

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has signaled that the commission would likely be launching its revamp of the E-rate program next week. 

That came Wednesday at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council's annual Access to Capital Conference in Washington, where she and commissioner Ajit Pai were being interviewed at the annual FCC breakfast. (Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, the first female minority chair, could not attend because she was presiding over a workshop on inmate calling services, according to a spokesperson.)

E-Rate is the FCC mandate to provide affordable access to cutting-edge telecommunications service to schools and libraries, with that subsidy coming out of the Universal Service Fund.

Rosenworcel's former boss, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), was instrumental in creating the program, and Rosenworcel has long stumped for the need to expand and revise the program. She said again Tuesday that there should be bandwidth goals -- calling for 100% school access to 100 Mbps by 2015, and one gig by the end of the decade -- and that giving every student access to first class communications was a civil rights issue.

Commissioner Pai said he agreed the program needed revamping, and said his goal was to move the focus from bureaucracy to targeting and tailoring it to the needs of individual students. Both he and Rosenworcel indicated they would have more to say on the subject next week. 

President Obama has also made getting high-speed broadband to schools and libraries a priority, and called on the FCC to leverage the E-rate subsidy to get that done.

MMTC president David Honig said Tuesday that would be one of that groups priorities as well.