The Federal Communications Commission approved a measure Thursday that will raise by $1.5 billion the funding cap for a program, known as E-Rate, that helps schools and libraries pay for Internet access. And since the program’s paid for through Universal Service Fund fees consumers see on their telephone bills, that will translate to up to $1.90 in additional fees on your phone bill each year.
CQ Roll Call’s Carolyn Phenicie reports that commissioners approved the measure in a party line vote of 3-2.
The measure raises the program’s funding cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.
Phenicie reports (subscription):
The order also makes a few other changes, including allowing schools and libraries to pay large upfront construction costs over multiple years, permitting program applicants to build high-speed broadband facilities themselves when doing so would be cost-effective and matching state support for “last-mile” broadband with up to 10 percent of construction costs.
As background, Phenicie writes that the “proposals come on the heels of changes made this summer to phase-out funding for outdated technology such as pagers and allow more funding to be put toward the physical connections needed to expand wireless connections.”
According to Phenicie, net neutrality protesters interrupted the meeting several times, including by a pair of protesters who ran behind the commissioners holding a banner that said “reclassify now,” referring to calls for the agency to reclassify broadband as a common carrier in rewriting net neutrality rules:
“This is what the presidents wants, this is what the people want. We deserve to have the net kept neutral,” they said. They also apologized for interrupting the meeting. Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed a group of students in the audience, “You’ve just seen the First Amendment at work. This is what this country is all about.”