F.C.C. Says It Will Expand E-Rate Program and Double Spending on High-Speed Internet in Schools and Libraries!

Dear Commons Community,

The Federal Communications Commission will expand the E-Rate program in order to double the amount of money it devotes to adding high-speed Internet connections in schools and libraries over the next two years.   As reported in the New York Times, funding for the expansion:

“…will come from restructuring the $2.4 billion E-Rate program, which provides money for “advanced telecommunications and information services” using the proceeds of fees paid by telecommunications users. The proportion that goes to broadband service in schools and libraries will increase to $2 billion a year from $1 billion.

Mr. Obama referred to the changes during his State of the Union address last week. The changes will not require any additional taxes or assessments, according to an F.C.C. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement was being planned for this week.

The E-Rate program is part of the Universal Service Fund, which also provides money to connect rural areas and low-income people to phone and Internet service using money raised through fees on consumers’ phone bills. The commission’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, is expected to announce details of the plan on Wednesday at an event for Digital Learning Day, which promotes the use of technology in education.

Most of the redirected spending in 2014 will come from funds left over from previous years. Next year, much of the money will come from changes to the E-Rate program, including the elimination of programs that pay for outdated technologies, like paging services, dial-up Internet connections and email programs that are available free elsewhere.

The spending will be used to increase available broadband speeds and provide wireless networks in schools, which are increasingly in demand for students using tablets and laptop computers.”

This is good policy on the part of the F.C.C. and will help many school districts and libraries to upgrade their Internet connectivity.



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