WASHINGTON, DC— More than 250 superintendents, school leaders, and local and national education organizations urged the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) to continue its support of high-speed Wi-Fi services in schools and libraries through the federal E-rate program.
The FCC recently modernized the E-rate program, which provides schools and libraries with high-speed internet, to include Wi-Fi services in addition to broadband. Last month, the FCC requested public comments on the current funding levels for Wi-Fi services at $1 billion annually for five years.
In response, the groups submitted letters highlighting that in 2015, more than 42,700 schools have accessed funding for Wi-Fi infrastructure and services, and that 83 percent of the $1 billion in funding provided by the FCC that year went to low-income schools.
Nearly 200 school and district leaders representing thirty-eight states, and more than fifty leading organizations, including the Alliance for Excellent Education; Common Sense Kids Action; CoSN (Consortium for School Networking); Education SuperHighway; Funds for Learning; International Association for K–12 Online Learning; National Association of State Boards of Education; Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition; and Urban Libraries Council, signed on to support preserving and continuing the FCC’s current commitment of $1 billion annually for Wi-Fi services through E-rate.
The groups emphasize the importance of providing digital access to the nation’s students through E-rate and urge that progress not be undercut:
“In today’s modern economy, it is critical that the nation’s schools and libraries have robust Wi-Fi to support digital learning for students and library patrons alike. High-speed broadband enables students across the country to engage in courses and learning opportunities that were not previously available in brick-and-mortar classrooms; allows educators to take advantage of online and digital resources and tools to transform teaching and learning; and helps librarians provide students with after-school homework access and adult education and workforce development opportunities for their communities.
“There is still work to be done to ensure that all students attend a school with high-speed internet access … 6.5 million students still lack access to high-speed broadband for digital learning and 10,000 schools report having insufficient Wi-Fi in their classrooms.
“The FCC’s role in supporting access to high-speed Wi-Fi in schools and classrooms is critical to preparing the nation’s students to compete in an increasingly global workforce.”
Read the letter from superintendents.
Read the letter from organizations.
E-rate has provided funds and discounts to make internet connectivity and other telecommunications services more affordable for schools and libraries since its creation in 1996. The greatest discounts are available to rural schools and libraries and those that serve high-poverty populations.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.