U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today made the following statement on the upcoming July 11th Federal Communication Commission (FCC) vote on reforms proposed by Chairman Wheeler to E-Rate, a program intended to support communications services for schools and libraries nationwide:
“Since Chairman Wheeler first announced his $5 billion Wi-Fi stimulus proposal, I have been concerned that he cannot realistically expect to pay for it without forcing Americans to pay more for communications services or diverting E-Rate funds that support necessary connectivity in our nation’s schools, particularly in rural areas. While I disagree with some of my Democrat colleagues who believe the FCC should simply increase the existing cap on E-Rate funding, they are correct that Wi-Fi’s ‘impact cannot be felt where there is no broadband to support it.’ I also share the National Education Association’s opposition to raiding Priority I E-Rate funds to support Wi-Fi.
“Chairman Wheeler should focus the FCC’s E-Rate reforms on protecting the program’s core mission of connectivity, realizing honest savings, and deploying real dollars, rather than promising future spending that could undermine E-Rate’s effectiveness or increase the economic burden on American ratepayers. There is widespread agreement that E-Rate should be modernized for the broadband era. If Chairman Wheeler is unable to move forward with reforms that have the bipartisan support of his FCC colleagues, he should postpone Friday’s scheduled vote and work to achieve such an outcome later this summer. Moving forward in a partisan manner, relying on untested budget assumptions, and shifting E-Rate’s priority from connectivity to Wi-Fi will only erode the Chairman’s and FCC’s stature, and potentially jeopardize support for E-Rate.”