December 18, 2014

FCC Chairman Proposes E-Rate Modernization To Bring High-Speed Wi-Fi To Every Student And Library

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UPDATE July 1, 2014  Modernizing E-Rate: Providing 21st Century Wi-Fi Networks For Schools and Libraries Across America
10 page report released by the FCC.

The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of the estimated number of additional students, schools and libraries that would gain E-rate funding needed for Wi-Fi upgrades over the next five years under the proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Nationwide, the proposal would increase funding for Wi-Fi 75 percent for rural schools and 60 percent for urban schools, allowing an additional 44 million students and 16,000 libraries to have access to Wi-Fi services by 2019, all within existing program funding.

UPDATE June 23, 2014: “Educators ‘beyond frustrated’ with FCC’s tech plans for schools” (via The Hill)

Note: ALA Statement Below

From the Federal Communications Commission:

Today [Friday, June 21, 2014] , Chairman [Tom] Wheeler circulated an E-Rate Modernization proposal to his fellow Commissioners to revitalize the E-Rate program for the world of personalized learning. During the past 18 years, E-Rate has helped transform schools’ and libraries’ access to modern communications networks. But educational connectivity has changed:whereas once it was revolutionary to connect a computer lab down the hall to the Internet, harnessing the full value of digital learning today means enabling all students to go online from their desk or from any library workspace.ster

Chairman Wheeler’s proposed Order is the next major step in a comprehensive modernization of E-Rate, the first such effort since the program’s creation 18 years ago. The draft Order is focused on the largest and most urgent need—closing the Wi-Fi gap—while ensuring E-Rate money is spent smartly and improving program administration. It is the next step in what will be an ongoing process to modernize the E-rate program.

Additional Details in this FCC Announcement

See Also: FCC E-Rate Homepage

See Also: Universal Service Administrative Company

Coverage

FCC proposes $1B per year for Wi-Fi in schools (via IDG News Service)

Wheeler’s plan would allocate $1 billion in E-Rate funds for Wi-Fi next year and another $1 billion in 2016, with the goal of getting Wi-Fi to more than 10 million additional students in each of those years. It also calls for predictable funding in future years. If the agency takes action this summer, the Wi-Fi upgrades could be in place for the 2015-2016 school year, according to the proposal.

Comment From ALA’s Comment

Mobile internet use in libraries is exploding, and this first step by the Chairman to address this need is important for the vast number of schools and libraries that have not received E-rate support for internal (e.g., Wi-Fi) connections for many years.

But this is not enough to meet our national needs. The lack of access to affordable, high-capacity broadband to the building remains a major challenge for so many libraries and schools. Such access must be fully funded for eligible applicants, regardless of any new funding models for Wi-Fi services.

Wi-Fi without adequate broadband—which is the case for the majority of the nation’s libraries that have internet connections of less than 10 Mbps—does not come close to adequately serving the education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and civic engagement needs of our communities. ALA urges the FCC to incorporate a portion of the down payment to high-capacity broadband—that is, to priority one services—in this first order.

See Also: FCC E-Rate Reforms Don’t Rate With Education Groups (via Broadcasting and Cable)

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.