SETDA and Common Sense Deliver E-rate Help

Two non-profits are teaming up to "help finish the job" of connecting every school and library in the country to high-speed Internet access. Common Sense Kids Action, the advocacy arm of Common Sense Media, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) have introduced a new set of resources to guide states and school districts through the process of tapping into billions of dollars available under the newly modernized federal E-rate program.

Under changes introduced last year, the Federal Communications Committee updated E-rate to cover high-speed fiber and Wi-Fi projects at schools over the next five years. The funding is generated through a small fee attached to phone bills.

"Equity of Access," available on the SETDA Web site, provides documents that give an overview of E-rate changes and related topics along with sample slide decks to help explain the revisions to policy makers and district people.

One person who had previewed the kit, Matt Holder, chief operations officer for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said the materials would simplify the "complex E-rate program" and make it easier to communicate "with policymakers and state leaders about the importance of E-rate funds for broadband connectivity."

The two organizations said they'd be working together over the next three years to encourage school leaders to file applications for E-rate funding. Common Sense will also promote states setting aside funding to use in a new state matching grant created for E-rate to make broadband projects even more affordable for schools.

"I think most of us would agree that something is wrong when coffee shops have faster Internet connections than most of our schools," said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a prepared statement. "With the use of advanced technology for learning and for administration, we must do everything we can now to finish the job of connecting every classroom and library."

"These documents will help guide educators and policy makers as they work to put in place high-speed bandwidth for classrooms and libraries," added Lan Neugent, interim executive director of SETDA. "It is essential that every child in our country be able to seamlessly access digital resources."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.