Policy & Funding | News

Bipartisan Group Calls on FCC To Modernize E-Rate or Improved Internet Access for Schools

A bipartisan group of two-dozen representatives led by Jared Polis (D-CO) today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a letter to modernize the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, more commonly known as E-rate.

The letter is the latest salvo in a growing effort to overhaul the 16-year-old program, which was designed to help schools and libraries connect to the Internet.

"E-rate was critical to bringing basic Internet connection to schools on the North Coast and in rural areas across the United States, but the program hasn't kept pace with changing technology," Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) said in a prepared statement. "Modernizing the E-rate program will improve collaboration in the classroom, allow students and teachers to access cutting-edge educational tools and material from around the world and help schools prepare students for tomorrow's job market."

Among the recommendations in the letter is the creation of an upgrade fund, which does not currently exist within the program, "to connect every school and library, particularly those in rural areas, to high-speed broadband," as well as limiting support for "dial-up era technologies."

"The district I represent in upstate New York is largely rural, making increased access to broadband a priority of mine in Congress," said Represntative Chris Gibson (R-NY) in a prepared statement. "I am pleased to be working with Representative Polis in a bipartisan manner to improve education through broadband expansion.  If our children are going to compete in the 21st century workforce, they must have access to 21st century resources."

The letter also calls on the FCC to "simplify and streamline onerous paperwork requirements to improve program efficiency."

"At a time in which technology is transforming so many aspects of our lives, too many schools do not have access to the connectivity they need to take advantage of the opportunities that digital learning presents," Polis said in a news release about the move. "It is time for the FCC to act to improve, modernize, and streamline the E-Rate program in order to bring high-speed broadband to every classroom and personalize learning for every student."

More information is available at polis.house.gov.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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