UTC was on hand at the FCC’s Workshop on E-Rate as representatives from the FCC and from educational institutions and organizations, as well as some communications service providers provided their perspectives on how the program is promoting broadband access to schools and libraries. Among the panelists during a session on “Statewide and Regional Case Studies”, John Gillispie, Executive Director, Missouri Research and Education Network went out of his way to repeatedly praise the services provided by Sho-Me Technologies, a subsidiary of Sho-Me Power, which was the only bidder to respond to the RFP that MREN put out for bid in December of 2013 for 243 sites. He explained that MREN serves the lower third of Missouri, which is a sparsely populated and economically depressed area of the state. He also explained that Sho-Me is the only provider of lit and dark fiber in this area and they proposed to serve 187 of the MREN sites that Sho-Me could reach. He also explained that the Sho-Me Technologies network is highly reliable and was built using BTOP funding under the ARRA. He elaborated that Sho-Me provides all of its maintenance and they like Sho-Me because they have a “stick with it until its fixed” approach and provide 4-hour response time and regularly exceed the 99.999 SLA with MREN.
In a related development, the FCC released a Public Notice
which requests comments on a draft eligible services list (ESL) containing the specific products and services that would be eligible for funding support in the schools and libraries universal service program for the 2016 funding year. An Attachment to the Public Notice contains a list of proposed eligible services for 2016. The FCC also identifies the more significant changes between the funding year 2015 ESL and the proposed funding year 2016 ESL, and seeks comments on whether it should adopt or modify those changes. Comments are due June 22 and replies are due July 6th.