OTI: FCC Needs to Open Purse to Close Broadband Gap

New America's Open Technology Institute is calling on the FCC to free up big bucks for distance learning. 

In an emergency filing, it told the FCC it had $2.2 billion it could use from the E-rate schools and libraries Universal Service Fund subsidy and clearly had the authority since it just launched a $100 million telehealth pilot program using USF funds. 

Related: FCC Grants Various E-Rate Extensions 

It wants the FCC to immediately extend broadband access to millions of K-12 students currently lacking it.  

It also called on the FCC to extend E-rate funds, usually reserved for schools and libraries broadband nets, to off-site connectivity. 

The FCC has already waived restrictions on closed schools and libraries getting funds so they can continue to be hotspots for students in the vicinity. 

It also advocated for more distance learning dollars in the last stimulus bill and will do so in the next, FCC officials have said.

But OTI said the FCC can do more now with the money it has. 

“The FCC has the legal authority to immediately designate $2.2 billion in available E-Rate funding to help local schools mitigate this crisis," said Michael Calabrese, director of OTI's Wireless Future Project, who said the homework gap had become a chasm in the time of coronavirus.  

OTI added a plug for using more Lifeline subsidy funds funds to connect low-income residents required to stay at home during the pandemic.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.