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Aurora Institute

Update on E-Rate Modernization

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Increase Access to Broadband

The FCC will vote on e-rate expansion, determining the future of broadband connectivity for schools and libraries.

On December 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take an important step to expand high-speed broadband Internet access for K-12 schools and libraries.

Blended and online learning models are leveling the playing field to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality, personalized, world-class education. The goal of these new learning models is to prepare learners for a lifetime of success, regardless of zip code or socio-economic background. Without high-speed Internet access, however, students can’t benefit from media-rich learning environments. Students’ access to these educational opportunities depends on adequate broadband connectivity in schools, homes and communities.

About E-rate

The Federal E-Rate program provides discounts on telecommunications services, Internet access and connections for libraries and schools. E-Rate was established in the 1996 Telecommunications Act during the “dial-up” era. Congress gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to determine appropriate program requirements and funding levels to address future changes in this telecommunications program. The current program is insufficient for the technology infrastructure needs of schools; demand for E-Rate funding to connect schools to high-speed broadband now outstrips the availability of funding in the current program by 2:1.

Last spring, iNACOL submitted comments to the FCC urging them to take action to modernize the E-Rate program, with specific examples and feedback from hundreds of iNACOL members.

In July, the FCC took an important step towards updating the E-Rate program. The FCC voted to set aside funding for improving internal Wi-Fi connectivity in schools and libraries, making the program more cost efficient. The order also addresses modernization issues by phasing out legacy services such as pagers and telephone landlines, and streamlines the application process.

The FCC has modernized and streamlined E-Rate for focusing funding on high priority needs such as wifi and to better maximize funding through partnerships for cost savings, and is addressing the funding cap.

Key FCC Vote on December 11

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is currently circulating a draft order to the FCC commissioners to raise the funding cap on E-rate. They will vote on this proposal on December 11.

If the order passes, it would increase the E-Rate funding cap by $1.5 billion to enable progress towards the goal of connecting 99% of students to high-speed broadband within the next five years.

Get Involved

Ask the FCC to vote “YES” on social media. For example, tweet: “I believe #Internet4Schools matters. RT to tell the @FCC to vote yes to expand Internet access in schools.”