The FCC released a Public Notice seeking comments on two petitions requesting rule changes to permit off-campus use of E-rate funded networks without a reduction in E-rate funding. Under the current E-rate program, schools and libraries receive discounts on communications services used on the campus of a qualifying school or library. Historically, support was intended for use for services at the school or library and only during school hours and funding was reduced for any non-educational use. But in 2010, citing public interest, the E-Rate rules were relaxed to permit schools to open E-rate supported services to the local community during non-school hours as long as the use did not require additional E-Rate funding. The petitions filed by Microsoft Corporation, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and other petitioners, and the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic on behalf of the Boulder Valley School District, seek a further relaxation to permit at home and other off-campus use without a reduction in E-rate funding.

Specifically, the Microsoft-led petition seeks a declaratory ruling (or waiver) that E-rate funding will not be reduced if the school provides at home access to students using TV White Spaces technology. According to the petition, the connections would comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and would not require additional E-Rate funding.

Similarly, Boulder Valley is seeking a waiver of the funding reduction rule so that it may provide Internet service after school hours to students who live in subsidized housing within the school district. Local housing authorities, not the E-Rate program, would pay the incremental costs associated with connecting the housing complexes to the existing E-Rate subsidized network. According to the petition, the proposal would ensure that “students have access to Internet connections at home to complete online homework, increasing the efficiency of already existing school bandwidth, and streamlining the application process for E-rate funds—all without any additional costs to the [universal service fund].”