FCC Chairman Proposes E-Rate Modernization To Bring High-Speed Wi-Fi To Every Student And Library
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.
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.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.