On July 19, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced first steps toward modernization of the E-rate program—the federal government’s program for connecting the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet—to provide students and teachers with access to high-capacity broadband.
“Technology has the power to revolutionize education in America,” said Mignon Clyburn, acting chairwoman of the FCC. “But we are not where we need to be relative to other nations and to the rate of technology adoption in this nation. And one of the biggest obstacles to seizing the opportunities of digital learning in America is inadequate bandwidth at our schools and libraries. Simply put, they need faster high-capacity connections and they need them now. Today, however, we take an important step toward ensuring that our schools and libraries have the bandwidth they need: we launch a modernization of E-Rate that the times demand and our children deserve.”
According to a release from the FCC, the E-rate program has successfully connected virtually all U.S. libraries and schools, including 97 percent of U.S. classrooms, to the internet, compared to only 14 percent when E-rate was first established in 1997. It adds, however, that half of E-rate applicants had slower connection speeds than the average American home.
To meet the increased demand on the program, the FCC set forth three proposed goals to modernize E-rate: (1) increased broadband capacity; (2) cost-effective purchasing; and (3) streamlined program administration.
“When it comes to accessing the internet, the nation’s teachers and students are stuck on a two-lane street in an eight-lane world,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “This quick action from the FCC is the first step in a plan to provide 99 percent of America’s students with high-speed internet access through next-generation broadband in schools and libraries within five years.”
Between now and September 16, the FCC is seeking public comments on how to advance its goals. For more information, visithttp://www.fcc.gov/e-rate-update.