FCC extends E-Rate to gigabit speed, off hours, open access #fcc #broadband #fiber

FCCThe FCC’s 6th R&O, upgrading and modernizing the E-rate program (providing Universal Service support to schools and libraries) will become effective January 3, 2011.

In the 6th R&O, the FCC has upgraded and modernized the E-rate program, consistent with the National Broadband Plan’s (NBP’s) vision of improving broadband connectivity at the nation’s schools and libraries.

The revisions adopted in the 6th R&O fall into three conceptual categories: (1) providing schools and libraries with greater flexibility to select and make available the most cost-effective broadband and other communications services; (2) simplifying the E-rate application process; and (3) improving safeguards against waste, fraud and abuse.

In particular, the 6th R&O provides schools and libraries with more flexibility by allowing applicants to lease dark or lit fiber from the most cost-effective provider. The FCC has also changed its rules to allow schools to permit community use of E-rate funded services outside of school hours. With affordable fiber, these “School Spots” are a major step toward the NBP’s goal of connecting an anchor institution in every community to affordable 1 gigabit per second broadband. The FCC indexed to the inflation rate E-rate’s funding cap in order to maintain purchasing power. Finally, the FCC seeks proposals for a limited pilot program to establish best practices to support off-campus wireless connectivity for portable learning devices, such as digital textbooks, outside of regular school or library operating hours.

The Commission has separately announced that applications for the pilot program must be submitted on or before December 17, 2010.

[Source: Frank Jazzo: CommLaw Blog]