Republicans Want Cost Analysis Of E-Rate Revamps

The Republican leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Commmittee and ranking members of the Democrat-led Senate Commerce Committee have asked the FCC to refer any expansion of the E-rate program to the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the legislators expressed concerns about the dollar signs and zeros that might be attached to the so-called E-Rate 2.0 proposals.

They say that the contribution factor to the fund--which subsidizes advanced telecommunications service to schools, libraries and other anchor institutions--has risen from 9.5% in 2009 to 16.4% in the first quarter of 2014, which they point out consumers wind up paying.

"This growth is indicative of the need for a thorough and critical examination of any proposals that have the potential to further increase the bill for American families."

They point out that the board is made up of FCC Commissioners, state utility commissioners, and a consumer advocate, and should be used "as a tool for the Commission to ensure any changes to the fund achieve the statutory goals in an effective and appropriately tailored way."

The letter also came only a couple of days after the President announced a new combined effort of the FCC and telecoms to expand high speed broadband to schools.

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.