In comments submitted April 7, the Alliance for Excellent Education called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the federal E-rate program in order to lay the foundation for expanding the program through increased funding. The comments were in response to the E-Rate Public Notice issued by the FCC on March 6, regarding its plan to expand, modernize, and simplify E-rate, the federal government’s program for connecting the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet.
“The common-sense measures currently under consideration by the FCC are a necessary first step toward the permanent expansion of the E-rate program. I applaud the FCC’s progress and urge them to quickly modernize the program so that additional funding can be secured and used effectively and efficiently to provide 99 percent of America’s students with access to high-speed broadband within the next five years,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
E-rate has been a tremendous asset for the nation’s education system, but it needs to be modernized to meet current demands. When E-rate was first enacted in 1996, only 14 percent of the nation’s schools were connected to the internet. Today, 94 percent of schools and libraries are connected. Despite that success, many schools and libraries still do not have high-speed broadband, and the demand for E-rate funds outpaces supply by more than two-to-one. To help address the program’s unmet needs, the FCC recently committed to allocating an additional $2 billion toward E-rate in order to bring high-speed internet access to an additional 20 million students attending 15,000 schools.
In addition to permanently increasing E-rate’s funding, the Alliance recommends focusing the $2 billion in newly identified resources on Wi-Fi and other “internal connections” for which no funds were available in 2013; allowing specialized assistance to high-need applicants; reducing support for voice services in order to focus the program on high-speed broadband access; and implementing demonstration projects on a limited basis in order to identify new and innovative ways to provide students with access to high-speed broadband while they are not in school.
“Expanding high-speed internet in the nation’s schools and libraries is critical to ensuring that teachers and students have access to specialized technology and tools to make learning more personalized and engaging, an essential part of learning success in today’s world.” said Wise. “E-rate expansion through increased funding is vital to help them reach that goal. Now is the time for the FCC to take action to make that goal a reality.”
The Alliance’s comments to the FCC are available at