Thursday’s FCC Vote Could Deliver an Additional $1.5 Billion to U.S. Schools and Libraries for High-Speed Internet Connections
WASHINGTON, DC – A new analysis released today by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds significant gaps in U.S. students’ access to high-speed internet. The analysis comes in advance of a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday that could increase funding for the federal E-rate program and provide U.S. schools and libraries with access to an additional $1.5 billion annually to improve internet access.
“No modern business expects to function without access to high-speed internet,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Why should we expect it of our schools and libraries?”
According to data from the FCC, two-thirds of the nation’s students lack access to high-speed internet (100 Mbps or more). Additionally, African American, Latino, low-income, and rural students are more likely to be in schools with slow internet connections (10 Mbps or less) than their peers and less likely to be in schools with high-speed broadband internet needed for digital learning, according to Schools and Broadband Speeds: An Analysis of Gaps in Access to High-Speed Internet, a recent report from the Alliance and the LEAD Commission.
Should the FCC vote to increase funding for E-rate, U.S. schools and libraries would have access to $1.5 billion annually in E-rate funding for internet—money that would allow the United States to expand high-speed Wi-Fi access to 43.5 million additional students, over 101,000 additional schools, and nearly 16,000 additional libraries.
E-rate has been a tremendous asset to the nation’s education system, but it needs additional funding to meet today’s demand. When E-rate was first enacted in 1996, only 14 percent of the nation’s schools were connected to the internet. Today, nearly all schools and libraries are connected. Despite that success, many schools and libraries still do not have access to high-speed broadband.
As demand for internet access grows, so do requests for E-rate funding. As a result, demand for E-rate funds outpaces supply by more than two-to-one. For example, the fifty states and the District of Columbia requested a combined $4.8 billion in E-rate funding in 2014, but only received $2.4 billion.
To pay for the increase in E-rate funding, the FCC anticipates that consumers would pay an additional 16 cents a month or $1.90 a year.
“For less than the cost of a holiday greeting card, the best gift the FCC can give to America’s students and teachers is increased funding for the E-rate program,” said Wise.
For fact sheets with more information on students’ access to high-speed internet within each of the fifty states, as well as their unmet funding needs, visit http://99in5.org/resources-news/equity/.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org
In addition to working to support funding to increase broadband to schools and libraries, the Alliance has also launched the Future Ready Schools Initiative, a bold new effort led by the Alliance and the U.S. Department of Education to take full advantage of that bandwidth by maximizing opportunities and helping school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship. To learn more about the free resources available to support districts, visit www.futurereadyschools.org.