TechFreedom and other groups have released a letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, urging the FCC to adopt Commissioner Ajit Pai’s E-Rate reform proposals. These reforms would make the program more efficient by reducing the regulatory burdens on schools, and introducing more local responsibility, accountability and transparency. The full letter follows below.
Recently, the Obama administration urged the FCC to make changes to the E-Rate program, which provides funding for communications connectivity to schools and libraries. Unfortunately, while the E-Rate program has long been in need of reform, the changes proposed by the administration do not appear to address the worst problems with this program. For example, the administration’s proposal does not address the burdensome complexity of the application process, the unpredictability of funding or the lack of transparency in how E-Rate funds are spent. Instead of addressing E-Rate’s structural problems, the administration has recommended a massive expansion of the program.
Until Congress completely overhauls the outdated system of universal service subsidies in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, regulators should reform the existing law to make it more efficient.
Throwing money at the E-Rate program will not solve its problems. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has proposed real reforms that get to the root of E-Rate’s structural problems, including:
- Reduced waste : eliminating the program’s current “the more you spend, the more you get” structure, while requiring that any expansion in the E-Rate budget be accompanied by corresponding cuts elsewhere in USF;
- Reducing paperwork : a simplified application process that does not require schools and libraries to hire expensive consultants to navigate the bureaucracy;
- Fairer distribution : funding would be allocated per-student, adjusted for need, rather than the current haphazard allocation that rewards consultants and schools who can game the system;
- Modernization : redirecting funding from legacy telephone services to modern technologies; and
- Greater transparency : a single website would show how each school or library spends E-Rate funds.
Together, these changes will put much-needed oversight and spending constraints on a program that has ballooned out of control, without increasing Americans’ telephone bills or imposing a one-size-fits-all mandate on schools. We encourage the FCC to adopt Commissioner Pai’s proposed E-Rate reforms.
Americans for Tax Reform
Competitive Enterprise Institute
National Taxpayers Union