FCC Votes to Pump Billions Into School Wi-Fi

Internet for schools becomes one of the most dramatic FCC votes.

A student shows US President Barack Obama how he is working to creat an ebook with an iPad in a classroom at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland, on February 4, 2014 before speaking detailing progress toward his ConnectED goal of connecting 99 percent of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology within five years.
Laura Ryan
July 11, 2014, 9:23 a.m.

Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion Chair­man Tom Wheel­er over­came bi­par­tis­an con­cerns Fri­day to ap­prove his plan to re­vamp the agency’s school In­ter­net fund.

The agency’s two Re­pub­lic­ans vo­cally dis­sen­ted, while the two Demo­crat­ic com­mis­sion­ers re­luct­antly sup­por­ted the pro­pos­al, say­ing they hope it’s just a first step.

The FCC’s plan will in­vest a guar­an­teed $2 bil­lion in Wi-F for schools and lib­rar­ies over the next two years and take steps to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the pro­gram, known as E-Rate.

“10 mil­lion kids will be con­nec­ted [to Wi-Fi] that haven’t,” Wheel­er said Fri­day. “That’s a good day’s work. That’s something to be proud of.”

The agency in­tends to spend $1 bil­lion on Wi-Fi every year in­def­in­itely, but ques­tions re­main over where that money will come from. The FCC sidestepped a ma­jor stick­ing point in the E-Rate de­bate: in­creas­ing the fund’s over­all spend­ing cap.

Re­pub­lic­ans say the num­bers in the pro­pos­al don’t add up and that Wheel­er ig­nored GOP in­put. Demo­crats still want E-Rate’s $2.4 an­nu­al cap raised.

“Today’s ac­tion is a pos­it­ive step for­ward in mod­ern­iz­ing E-Rate,” Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller, who played a key role in shap­ing E-Rate, said in a state­ment Fri­day. “Now it’s time for the FCC to roll up its sleeves and work to ad­dress the real press­ing need””provid­ing much-needed ad­di­tion­al long-term fund­ing for this im­port­ant pro­gram.”

Rais­ing the cap would mean­ing rais­ing fees on Amer­ic­ans’ phone bills, be­cause E-Rate fund­ing comes from the Uni­ver­sal Ser­vice Fund. Wheel­er has not ruled out rais­ing the cap, but if he de­cides to do it, the op­pos­i­tion he faced from Re­pub­lic­ans this week will look tame.

With a last-minute tweak to his pro­pos­al, Wheel­er se­cured votes from the two Demo­crat­ic com­mis­sion­ers, Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel and Mignon Cly­burn, to pass the first ma­jor up­date to E-Rate since it was cre­ated in 1997.

The fi­nal pro­pos­al in­cludes a “safety valve” that aims to guar­an­tee that in­vest­ment in Wi-Fi does take pri­or­ity over broad­band con­nectiv­ity, one of the primary con­cerns from both sides of the aisle in the week lead­ing up to the vote.

But Rosen­wor­cel, one of E-Rate’s biggest cham­pi­ons, and nu­mer­ous Demo­crat law­makers say that in­creas­ing E-Rate’s budget is a ne­ces­sary step to­ward reach­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s goal of con­nect­ing 99 per­cent of U.S. stu­dents to high-speed In­ter­net by 2015.

“There is noth­ing rad­ic­al about [rais­ing the cap],” Rosen­wor­cel said Fri­day at the open com­mis­sion meet­ing. “I hope that go­ing for­ward we will have the cour­age to fix this.”

Re­pub­lic­ans vo­cally op­posed the plan, but their cri­ti­cisms will be amp­li­fied if the com­mis­sion de­cides to in­crease fund­ing for the pro­gram down the road.

Re­pub­lic­an Com­mis­sion­er Ajit Pai, who has been a ma­jor ad­voc­ate of E-Rate re­form, said the FCC’s plan main­tains the “status quo” and “for­feited the op­por­tun­ity for real, bi­par­tis­an re­form.” He sub­mit­ted his own re­form plan, which he says the com­mis­sion re­jec­ted.

“So, mark my words: Any talk of fisc­al re­spons­ib­il­ity will be short-lived. In five months, maybe six, we’ll be back at this table dis­cuss­ing how much to in­crease Amer­ic­ans’ phone bills. Uni­ver­sal ser­vice con­tri­bu­tion rates have jumped 60 per­cent un­der this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Pai said Fri­day.

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
22 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×