Policy & Funding | News

FCC Looks To Boost Broadband Support for Schools as It Reviews E-Rate Modernization

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on changes to the E-rate program that are likely to go into effect next year.

In a notice calling for focused public comment posted today at fcc.gov, the FCC outlined plans to modernize E-rate, with a special focus on funding high-speed broadband for schools in an equitable way.

E-rate is the FCC program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Co. that supports schools and libraries with discounts on telecommunications and networking equipment. The program is meant to help institutions outfit and support their facilities with telephone and Internet equipment and services.

Many in industry and government, including President Obama, have called for the modernization of E-rate to address the pressing needs of schools and libraries for higher-speed Internet connectivity. The new proposals made by the FCC address that broadband need and also tackle cost savings and administrative streamlining.

According to the notice: "Based on the extensive input the [c]ommission has received, it appears that meeting the [c]ommission's proposed goals for the E-rate program will require that, in the near term, the program focus on providing the support necessary to ensure schools and libraries can afford high-speed connectivity to and within schools and libraries, even as the [c]ommission develops a long-term approach that allows applicants to scale up capacity while driving down costs."

In particular, the FCC is looking for comment on how best to focus E-rate funds on broadband, particularly how those funds can be used to support internal WiFi connections; how and whether the FCC should phase out support for increasingly archaic forms of voice services; and whether there are "demonstration projects or experiments that the [c]ommission should authorize as part of the E-rate program that would help the [c]ommission test new, innovative ways to maximize cost-effective purchasing in the E-rate program."

Complete details can be found in the FCC's March 6 notice.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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