FCC Upgrades E-Rate Program to Give Schools, Libraries Improved Broadband Access

By Erin Harrison September 28, 2010

Staying on course with its National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission today upgraded and modernized the so-called “e-rate” program to bring fast, affordable Internet access to schools and libraries across the United States.

According to FCC officials, the commission’s e-rate order makes it easier for schools and libraries to get the highest speeds for the lowest prices by increasing their options for broadband providers and streamlining the application process. The Order is another advance in the Commission’s ongoing transformation of the Universal Service Fund, of which the E-rate program is part, to deploy broadband throughout America.

In a prepared statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “We fail our students if we don’t teach them basic digital skills. Job postings are increasingly online only, and increasingly require not only online applications but online skills. Broadband in schools is necessary to prepare our students for a 21st century economy.”

He said that such changes will help ensure that America’s students can learn and develop the high-tech skills necessary to compete in the 21st Century economy. 

Last February, so-called “working recommendations” meant to improve broadband in several sectors were unveiled at a meeting of the Federal Communications Commission.

FCC officials laid out a series of priorities for U.S. broadband development, calling for faster broadband speeds to schools and technology to allow consumers to monitor their electricity usage at home via the Internet.

The plan laid out a series of recommendations to promote broadband-enabled, cutting-edge learning inside and outside the classroom.

The FCC said that one of the key recommendations is modernizing the FCC’s E-rate program, which was established by Congress to bring connectivity to all schools and libraries across America. The program has indeed achieved success: 97 percent of American schools and nearly all public libraries now have basic Internet access.

However, under the FCC’s plan, it was found that basic broadband connectivity is too slow to keep up with the high-tech tools that are now essential to a quality education.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company´┐Żs strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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