Udall Helps Rural Schools Keep Funding for Broadband Access
Today, Mark Udall celebrated news that a group of 21 rural Colorado school districts was successful in its appeal to keep federal government funding to provide students with broadband Internet services.
The school districts, which make up the East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services (ECBOCES), rely on funding from the federal government's E-Rate program, which assists schools and libraries in rural and low-income communities in obtaining affordable Internet access. Last year, because of alleged violations of the regulatory competitive bidding process, ECBOCES was denied funding and was asked to refund additional money for a total loss of about $3.4 million, jeapordizing broadband services for roughly 9,400 students in farming and ranching communities on the Eastern Plains. ECBOCES appealed the decision with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In an effort to ensure rural Coloradans are not cut off from important educational services, Udall wrote a letter with Senator Michael Bennet earlier this year asking the FCC to carefully review the appeal, keeping in mind the ramifications the lack of funding could have on rural Colorado school districts and students. In October, Udall also led a bipartisan Colorado delegation letter, signed by Bennet and Congressmen Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner, asking the FCC to expedite its decision so that the school districts could factor it into their future curriculum planning.
"These rural school districts really rely on E-Rate funding to provide their students with important educational tools over the Internet, like upper-level distance-learning courses. I was proud to lead the effort to help facilitate the review process for ECBOCES to ensure that rural Colorado schools aren't denied broadband access comparable to what their peers are getting across the state," Udall said. "I am thankful the FCC listened to our concerns and made a favorable decision that gives these school districts some peace of mind as they plan their budgets and curricula for the upcoming year."
The FCC decision means that the Universal Service Administrative Company, a subsidiary of the FCC that administers the E-Rate program, can grant the ECBOCES E-Rate applications, clearing up the issue and freeing up the $3.4 million funding that was in question.