E-Rate | News
ISTE Petition Pressures FCC to Increase Broadband Funding in Upcoming Vote
In a petition filed on July 8, 2014, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize E-Rate and to increase the program’s funding cap for the 2014-15 school year.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in June that the Commission would be revamping the E-Rate program by allocating more funds and resources to setting up WiFi in schools across the country, but the petitioners remain concerned that the Commission does not plan increase the program's overall funding cap. Indeed, the very same day the Chairman issued his proposal, ISTE launched its #RaiseTheErateCap campaign, which encourages its supporters to tweet directly to @FCC using the new hashtag.
The ISTE petition, signed by more than 1,500 educators, emphasizes the importance of broadband and digital learning in the classroom and points to the specific shortcomings of Wheeler’s proposed E-Rate order. In a statement, ISTE's CEO Brian Lewis said, “E-Rate is the single largest federal technology support to K-12 schools and districts. ISTE has shared with the FCC firsthand accounts of the benefits of the program. We've offered suggestions, and more than 600 educators have filed comments on how to modernize it and recommendations for efficiencies. In addition to not raising the funding cap, the chairman's proposed order does not reflect educator's voices.”
Lewis noted the following inadequacies of the FCC’s current proposed order:
- “Modernization doesn't require a complete overhaul of the program. We all recognize the growing need to build out WiFi in our nation's schools, but it should not be the sole focus for E-Rate, particularly at the expense of other much-needed connectivity.
- Small and rural schools lose. The chairman's new proposed funding formula would allocate to the poorest schools with enrollments of 40 or fewer students $4,800 – at most – for all of their internal connection needs over the course of the next five years.
- The chairman's proposal takes one step forward for connectivity, but pushes many schools two steps back. Paying for WiFi by eliminating funding for voice services, Web hosting and e-mail means some districts stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
With tomorrow's vote approaching, Lewis and supporters of ISTE have expressed their hope that the five commissioners take into account the stated needs of the educators, students and parents who are directly affected by the E-Rate program.
Julia Sufrin is a contributing writer based in Los Angeles.