Press Club

FCC Commissioner Questions APS Backup Fiber System Plan

FCC logoAn FCC commissioner is questioning an Arlington Public Schools plan to build a backup fiber optic network with the help of federal funds.

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, a Republican appointed by President Obama, says the APS plan, first reported by ARLnow.com, is an example of wasteful “overbuilding” under the federal E-rate program.

E-rate is funded via Universal Service Fund fees and is intended to make “telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries in America.”

O’Rielly, however, said in a Feb. 10 letter that APS using E-rate to pay for half the costs of building a backup system — when a county-run fiber system and Comcast connections are available — is “troubling.”

“As an initial matter, I do not believe that our rules permit funding for backup networks,” O’Rielly writes. “Regardless, I see absolutely no justification for using E-rate funds for such a purpose. Instead, any universal service funding for broadband deployment should be targeted… to underserved communities most in need of support.”

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