Under the Trump administration, rural schools requesting funding for broadband expansion have faced record delays and denials, according to the non-profit EducationSuperHighway, which works to get schools connected to the internet. By their count, more than 60 eligible fiber projects have been unfairly denied since 2017, a rate that EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell says has spiked dramatically from years prior. Meanwhile, more than 30 schools have been waiting about a year for approval. On average, they currently wait 240 days for an answer. That’s despite state governments having put up $200 million in funds to supplement broadband expansion projects. “The table is set, and what we’ve run into is a bunch of red tape,” says Marwell.
…One of the overriding themes you’ve seen from the Trump FCC has been eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse above all else,” says Marwell. That was FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s justification for proposing new restrictions on the Lifeline program, which supplies internet service to poor families.
Now, USAC asks E-rate applicants detailed questions about the precise cost of each fiber construction project, the route the fiber would take to get to the school, and other specifics that the small schools asking for these funds have struggled to answer. Often, the problems preventing students from getting online prove to be blandly bureaucratic.