By Kate Tummarello - 02/03/14 09:03 AM EST
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ajit Pai, commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, said a federal program aimed at connecting schools to the Internet is falling short for students in rural areas.
In an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union Leader, the two Republicans criticized the federal E-Rate program for disproportionately doling out funding to connect schools.
The E-Rate program is a part of the FCC's Universal Service Fund, which is funded through fees on telephone services.
According to the op-ed, New Hampshire receives "25 cents back for every dollar they pay into the program," while states like New Jersey receive more funding per student.
"That's not fair: New Jersey is more urban and has a higher median income than New Hampshire, and broadband is more expensive in rural areas," Ayotte and Pai wrote.
The op-ed calls for an end to these "subsidies" and "a student-centered E-Rate program," with fewer administrative obstacles for schools to receive funding.
Schools face "hours of paperwork, months of waiting, and an understanding of E-Rate's convoluted and antiquated rules to even have a chance of obtaining funding," Ayotte and Pai said.
"The most successful schools tend to hire outside consultants to navigate the process for them — an option that many schools, especially small and rural ones, can't afford."
Additionally, schools should have "the flexibility to spend E-Rate funds on technologies that directly benefit students," they wrote.
"E-Rate must reflect the needs of today's students, regardless of which school they attend."