SIIA Supports E-Rate Increase; Congratulates FCC for Improving Student Learning Connectivity

SIIA has been a strong voice in support of increasing funding for the E-Rate program, which provides high-need schools and libraries with discounts off their Internet infrastructure and access.  SIIA today applauded The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for voting to approve a $1.5 billion permanent increase in the E-Rate program.

The E-Rate program has committed more than $40 billion in discounts to schools and libraries since its 1996 inception, but funding has been relatively flat at $2.25+ billion despite the increasing demand from schools and libraries that yearly exceeds the E-Rate cap. SIIA and other stakeholder organizations have advocated for increased funding to meet student and teacher needs.

High-speed broadband access is critical to enable students and teachers to access instructional resources, learning apps and online learning communities otherwise not available. Today’s decision to permanently increase the E-Rate cap will go a long way toward ensuring that all students can take advantage of educational opportunities in this digital age.  We congratulate the FCC for recognizing that this funding is necessary for our students’ success and the nation’s competitiveness.

According to SIIA’s annual Vision K-20 educator survey, only 42% of educators report that there is ubiquitous online access through school wifi, and only 38% believe there is adequate bandwidth is provided for students to access digital instructional materials. And according to a recent infrastructure survey by CoSN (representing school CTOs) in partnership with AASA (The School Superintendents Association), 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).

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

State Student Data Laws Tackle Same Issues in Varied Manners

In 2014,  more than 30 states introduced legislation around the use of student information. While many focused on state and/or local agency practices, SIIA identified that the following 16 states passed legislation in 2014 with direct impact on K-12 school service providers:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

In order to help SIIA members understand the impact of the new legislation, SIIA today published, as part of the SIIA Ed Policy Forum, a comprehensive report providing state-by-state summary and analysis, a synopsis of current federal laws, and a comparison chart of the new laws with current federal privacy regulations. (While this information has been published for SIIA members, non-members are able to download the comparison chart as well as sample profiles for Kentucky and Louisiana.)

Across the states profiled in the report, SIIA found varied legislative targets and approaches:

  • While most of the bills address the use of student personally identifiable information, 10 bills included a definition of such data which varied from each other as well as federal law.
  • While most of the bills primarily targeted the state’s use of student data, six states went further to restrict data collection and use at the local level. Many state laws restricted the use of student biometric information by the state (9 states) and by districts (4 states), though the definitions and details varied.
  • Many new state laws included explicit prohibitions on uses of data (9 states), such as for advertising and marketing.
  • Some states added financial and criminal penalties on school service providers in the case of a data breach (4 states) or unauthorized disclosure of data (1 state).
  • One (1) state required use of encryption technology for data security.

Going forward into the 2015 legislative session, we can expect to see additional state legislation on student data privacy and security. SIIA remains concerned about overly prescriptive and prohibitive state laws that do not recognize varied and innovative educational practices and could create a digital learning ceiling in the name of safeguarding student information. As importantly, SIIA is concerned that varied state laws could pose challenges to educational agencies, families and service providers having to navigate their complexities and inconsistencies as they move and operate across state lines.

Earlier this year, SIIA outlined the safeguards in current federal law and provided Student Privacy Policy Guidelines to help state legislators and other stakeholders craft appropriate policies.SIIA remains committed to ensuring student privacy and data security through effective partnerships between education service providers, school districts, and students and families. Critical to these partnerships is improving communications, capacity, governance and transparency in order to build understanding and trust so that educators and families can improve instruction and student learning through the safe and effective use of student information.


Brendan DesettiBrendan Desetti is the Education Policy and Programs Manager for SIIA. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @SIIAbrendan and find relevant national, federal, and state policy and program information in SIIA’s Ed Policy Forum.


SIIA Releases Guide to the Updated E-Rate Program

After the FCC restructured the E-Rate program over the summer and Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a permanent increase in program funding, SIIA is publishing a fact sheet to help our member school service providers understand and navigate the updated program.

The E-Rate program is the single largest source of technology funding for schools and libraries. While the software, digital content and related services provided by most SIIA member companies are not directly E-Rate eligible, the connectivity and cost savings help enable schools to purchase, access and implement those services to an extent not otherwise likely without E-Rate.

The new E-Rate rules will impact all schools, libraries and SIIA members by increasing E-Rate funds targeted to high-speed broadband connectivity, while further impacting companies whose products may be newly eligible (e.g., certain caching servers) or no longer eligible (e.g., web-hosting and e-mail). Additionally, the rules seek to speed K-12 school access to funding through an expedited application and reimbursement process.

It is a critical time for education technology companies to understand how the E-Rate program has changed and will operate over the next few years so they may better serve schools and libraries. SIIA member companies can find the SIIA E-Rate guide in the SIIA Ed Policy Forum.


Brendan DesettiBrendan Desetti is the Education Policy and Programs Manager for SIIA. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @SIIAbrendan and find relevant national, federal, and state policy and program information in SIIA’s Ed Policy Forum.


SIIA Applauds FCC’s Proposed E-Rate Funding Increase to Ensure Student Digital Learning Access

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 SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

Connected Car Principles Part of Trend Toward Corporate Privacy Commitments

SIIA applauds the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers for adopting a set of privacy principles for vehicle technologies and services. These principles, released on Thursday November 13, are a responsible step toward protecting the information collected by connected cars, and they reflect an important movement of strong corporate commitments to data privacy.

Data has become essential for improving auto safety, reducing traffic congestion, increasing auto efficiency and powering other advanced services for 21st Century drivers. By bolstering consumer confidence, these principles will help make certain these advancements can continue.  They cover transparency, choice, respect for context, data minimization, de-identification, retention, data security, integrity, access and accountability.  In particular, they put limits on the use of geolocation information for marketing purposes and provide consumers with access to collected information.

These principles reflect widely accepted privacy standards advocated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Administration, and are also reflected in the U.S. sectorial privacy laws.

Led by SIIA, the education technology industry has followed a similar course of action.  In October, in conjunction with the Future of Privacy Forum, we announced a set of 12 privacy principles that commit educational service providers to protecting the privacy of student information.  This effort is vital for our country, because new information technologies are enabling personalized education, improving educational outcomes, allowing for more efficient school operations, making possible the development of better instructional materials and faster identification of students at risk of failing, and more.

In particular, the principles bolster the deeply entrenched social norm and legal requirement that student information should be used solely for educational purposes. The student privacy pledge also commits service providers to refrain from using student information for targeted advertising, to limit student profiles to educational uses and to protect information from unauthorized access.

Data collection and analysis is essential for any industry that intends to grow and flourish in the 21st century.  But to be successful, companies must have the trust and confidence of data subjects, customers, policy makers and the public.  Voluntary steps such as those taken by the automotive and education technology industries are vital if we are to hold onto and grow this trust.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

New Higher Ed Regulations will Impact the Market for Digital Learning and Data Systems

On Halloween, the Obama Administration released its revised, final “Gainful Employment” regulations to the frightful reaction of many effected institutions. But their service providers may also be impacted. While the actual consequences of the new rules are a few years away, the regulations may ultimately force the closure of hundreds of programs at community colleges and private, for-profit and non-profit institutions. If impacted institutions shift resources or cease operations in response to these regulations, postsecondary institution service providers may be negatively impacted. Of course, there may be some opportunities as well as demands could increase for certain services and systems.

To help inform SIIA members who serve impacted institutions, SIIA’s Ed Policy Forum has developed a summary and analysis of the gainful employment regulations and their impact on the postsecondary market.


Brendan DesettiBrendan Desetti is the Education Policy and Programs Manager for SIIA. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @SIIAbrendan and find relevant national, federal, and state policy and program information in SIIA’s Ed Policy Forum.


Resources are Critical to Common Core Survival and Success Beyond November

Several years into the era of common core state standards (CCSS), there has been no shortage of challenge and opportunity, debate and disagreement.  Through it all, education practitioners have been among the staunchest champions for the new standards and their success. That was one of the several findings of an expert panel hosted last week by the DC think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Panelists discussed some of the issues that have tripped up the advancement of the CCSS and what the viability of the standards are beyond the November mid-term elections. Their bottom line: CCSS long term survival looks pretty likely, but given some of the rhetoric at the state and federal level, nothing is a sure thing.

While a couple of states have pulled out of the common core, states and school districts delaying testing or not investing in classroom materials are more likely to derail, or at least delay, full implementation of the standards. Panelists shared this sentiment and were fairly confident that we aren’t likely to see a mass exodus of states from the CCSS after the election.

While it’s clear that, for political decision makers, the CCSS has become a sort of bogeyman that they’d like to delay, this view has not been shared by educators. On the local level, educators remain some of the strongest supporters of the standards, and their biggest concerns of late are ensuring they have the training, support, technology and content needed to implement the standards properly in their classrooms.

Panelist Catherine Gewertz of Education Week suggested that proper implementation and having quality instructional materials and content was of a higher priority for educators than the concerns of policymakers over data privacy. While this isn’t to say privacy is not an issue, it makes clear that we should be having more robust conversations in states about the level of commitment needed to equip classrooms and teachers with the necessary tools to implement an entirely new set of standards and curriculum.

One other unanswered question is what will be the federal role in the CCSS post midterms. A Republican Senate may wind down the Department of Education’s ability to provide incentives. The AEI and the Council of Chief State School Officers would support a federal shift from recruiting every state to ensuring comparability and rigor of data and standards across self-committed states.

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