On the heels of a year-long effort to modernize the E-rate program, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler yesterday proposed the first permanent increase in the program’s funding since its creation nearly two decades ago. If approved at the Federal Communications Commission’s December meeting, annual funding would increase by $1.5 billion (60%) from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.
Chairman Wheeler’s recommendation follows an extended advocacy effort by school and library leaders to meet the increased demand for high speed Internet connectivity necessary to meet the needs of today’s students. SIIA joined a coalition of more than 75 education, high-tech and other stakeholder organizations writing recently to request a permanent increase in funding to the E-rate program.
SIIA members know well the common inadequacy of student and teacher connectivity as they too often struggle to access online the digital instructional materials, research and learning opportunities, and classroom management tools so critical to their teaching and learning success. According to one recent infrastructure survey, only 41% of districts meet the FCC’s short term goal of 100Mbps/1000 students in all schools, and 27% have no schools with this access. Meanwhile, 68% of all school districts do not have a single school that could meet the FCC’s long-term connectivity goal of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps).
SIIA looks forward to the FCC’s full support for increased E-rate funding in order to ensure all students have access to the modern resources and tools needed for their educational success and the nation’s economic competitiveness.
Mark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.