By Steve Young, CIO Advisor
As I vacationed last week, I curiously watched the news to see if the overhaul of the e-rate program would pass. While there was widespread agreement that the program needed to change, there was less agreement about how it should change. The FCC commissioners passed the changes with a whopping 3-2 vote. It is amazing and terrifying at the same time that five people—strike that, three people—can have so much authority to drastically change one of K-12’s largest funding sources. And even scarier is that so much of the money will be dedicated to be spent over two years, without what seems to be a clear path for long-term funding sustainability. Undoubtedly, some companies (i.e., overpriced K-12 web hosting companies, for one) are quaking in their business suits and some are rejoicing (major network equipment providers), while us in K-12 are wondering what happens in five or six years when the thousands of subsidized access points we installed in our schools need to be replaced?
I applaud the support for technology in education and the acknowledgment that the program needed changing, while I am terrified that it is just a one-time spend with a tenuous plan for ongoing support and sustainability, making it smell more like D.C. politics than true long-term reform. And let’s be clear, many areas cut out of e-rate are costs that schools and districts will still have to bear, so while it helps e-rate provide funding for wireless, schools will have to fund these cut services out of local budgets.