TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics recently filed comments on modernizing the federal E-Rate Program, which helps fund telecommunications services for schools and libraries across the country. In June, President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative, calling on the FCC to modernize the Program to bring high-speed broadband to nearly every school and library in America within five years. The FCC’s NPRM marks the next administrative step towards crafting a new Program framework.

The groups’ comments argue that while modernization is certainly important, setting arbitrary speed goals will do little to improve education, while costing taxpayers dearly. The following is an excerpt from the organizations’ filing:

No one doubts the need for modernization, but sensible modernization requires ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently to achieve clearly conceived and effective goals. In particular, that means rigorously justifying any bandwidth “targets” in terms of actual needs, pedagogical efficacy, and tradeoffs. …

Shifting E-rate’s focus away from outdated telecommunications technologies to broadband makes sense.  But focusing E-rate funding on essentially arbitrary speed targets does not.  Meeting those targets means dictating to schools and libraries that they should spend limited resources on broadband connections that they may not actually need or use, rather than address their real technological needs. The additional E-rate funding that would be necessary to meet these goals will come from imposing higher taxes (or so-called “user fees”) on all Americans — a particularly regressive tax, paid by all users.

The full filing can be found here. TechFreedom previously published a TechBriefing explaining E-Rate, and recently joined a coalition letter calling for oversight and spending restraints for the program.