PITTSBURGH, February 25, 2021 – In February 23 comments filed with the FCC on the proposed Emergency E-Rate program, ACA Connects explained that the program — if it is going to achieve its mission to provide broadband connectivity for remote learning during the COVID emergency — should be directed to in-need students that must engage in virtual classroom learning and should rely to the maximum extent on existing service providers because they can best provide that immediate connectivity.
Without this sharp focus, ACA Connects joined with many other commenters in expressing concern that the program would quickly run through limited funding and connect too few students who truly needed access.
“ACA Connects supports the prompt establishment of an Emergency E-Rate program that addresses the pressing problem we face – and not some larger agenda. We simply cannot wait around while in-need students that need to engage in online learning are stranded without broadband connectivity,” ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
Polka continued, “And, we need to recognize that the FCC right now has limited funding to solve that concern. Therefore, an Emergency E-Rate program should target support only to in-need students who need broadband connectivity, be distinct from the existing E-Rate program, have limited duration, rely on existing providers for connectivity, and give schools the flexibility, within limits, to achieve the program’s aim.”
In its comments, ACA Connects recommended that the FCC should establish an Emergency E-Rate program that: (1.) directs support to in-need students so they can engage in virtual classroom learning; (2.) because of the need for immediate connectivity, relies on existing providers, except in exceptional circumstances; (3.) provides support on a prospective basis to conserve limited funding and to treat all schools fairly; and (4.) offers schools flexibility, subject to guardrails and accountability measures to prevent waste.
About ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association: Based in Pittsburgh, ACA Connects is a trade organization representing more than 700 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services to nearly 8 million customers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA Connects’ members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their businesses. For more information, visit: http://www.ACAConnects.org