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Rockefeller OK with E-rate Item

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) said Friday he is OK with the FCC's item to revamp the E-rate schools and libraries telecom subsidy, which Rockefeller helped create almost two decades ago.

Rockefeller had concerns about the migration of the program from traditional connectivity to WiFi, but a "safety valve" provision was added in the hours leading up to Friday's vote to approve the item. That addition, which was sought by former Rockefller top aide Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, insures that "all requests for connectivity to schools and libraries under Priority 1 or Category 1 will be honored before Wi-Fi funding is made available."

Rockefeller said in a statement that he had not seen the text of the item--it has yet to be released--but that he understood it had addressed many of his concerns--which prompted him to warn that the item, as previously constituted, could jeopardize the program.

"By making modifications to address these concerns, today's action is a positive step forward in modernizing E-Rate," he said. "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. I will do my part, and I call on the Nation's teachers, librarians and all those who truly care about the future of our children to do the same."

Rosenworcel said she wished the E-rate cap had been raised in the item, and for that reason could only concur on the decision to push that to a further rulemaking. Wheeler said it would be a mistake to simply add money to a program started in the last century.

But the FCC's Republican commissioner suggested in strong dissents from the item, which passed on a straight party-line vote, that outside parties had been told the FCC would raise the cap in a December meeting--after the election, something an industry source confirmed they had heard was the case as well.