In time for the holidays

Forget the New York Times best seller list when deciding what to read on any days off you might have in front of you. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the second E-rate Modernization Order in plenty of time for you to print it out and stuff it in your carryon (if you’re lucky enough to be traveling somewhere sunny) or keep it on your bedside table if you’re like me and not so lucky.

Frozen Tree

Among the major changes adopted in this order are those geared to close the broadband capacity gap for libraries and schools, particularly for those in rural areas. These include:

  • Suspending the amortization rules for special construction;
  • Allowing applicants to pay their non-discounted portion for construction costs over multiple years;
  • Equalizing the treatment of dark and lit fiber;
  • Permitting self-construction of high-speed broadband networks; and
  • Adding discounts when states match funds for broadband construction projects.

These are the changes directly related to addressing the lack of affordable access to high-capacity broadband. The Commission also increased the funding available by $1.5 billion, bringing the program up to $3.9 billion. And as always, there are a number of other important program changes that provide new opportunities for libraries. We are preparing a summary of the order, but in the meantime, the FCC has one of their own which explains the major changes, some of which take effect in the 2015 funding year.

As we alluded to earlier, there is a lot of work ahead to make sure that libraries have the supports that they need to take advantage of the new funding and program changes. To that end Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler held a conference call which was both a recognition of the hard work of the American Library Association (ALA) and our library partners and a call to action. We are heeding the call to action and planning ongoing outreach and education to provide as much information to applicants and library leaders as we can. As a first step we are working with the Public Library Association to hold a webinar, January 8, to go into detail on the second E-rate order. And there will be more to come in the weeks ahead.

Exparte drinks

Exparte drinks

Read the FCC’s summary and you can get back to the book you put aside, but if you take on the full 106 pages of the E-rate order, try our official E-rate cocktail:

“The Exparte”

  • 2 ounces Campari
  • 1 ounce Gin (your choice)
  • 3 drops Bitters (try Angustura or orange)
  • Topped with club soda and garnished with an orange twist

For those of you who have been closely following the E-rate proceeding for the last 18 months or for those intimately aware of the intricacies of the E-rate application cycle here’s an ode to help you ring in the new E-rate year.

An E-rate Holiday Ode
The end of 2014 is now very near
and we have E-rate reform, so we hear.
Santa Wheeler has a very full sack
and the FCC/USAC elves have much on their backs.
All the new and confusing program regs
for some needed clarity we humbly beg.
With so many questions now still pending
we fear that 2015 may be never ending.
So much is new, so much has changed
even E-rate veterans’ minds go insane!
Like C2 reforms – yes we’ve waited so long
that useless 2-in-5 is finally gone!
C2 budgets, a bit hard to understand
but the FCC says your C2 funding’s in hand.
New rules for fiber, which is good news
changes like this we can certainly use.
A large increase in funding with money that’s new
to be spread among many and not just a few.
No need to amortize those big requests
get all funds in one year, likely the best.
The state match will stretch our limited funds
may not be too much but it’s more than just some.
How to do CEP, when will we hear?
the time to do this is very near.
The bad urban/rural change last summer
the new order fixes, it’s no longer a bummer.
To complete the new 471, I can hardly wait
though when it’s done I’ll be in a catatonic state.
But we’ve finally reached the end of program reform
so in the New Year let’s celebrate – the E-rate’s reborn.
–Poem by Bob Bocher, OITP Fellow

Happy New Year

About Marijke Visser

As associate director of OITP, Marijke leads and coordinates all of ALA’s work on E-rate. In addition to E-rate, Marijke supports the Program on Networks focusing on broadband adoption issues for diverse populations. Marijke also serves as Program Director for OITP’s emerging portfolio on children, youth, and technology.

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