CWA supports Wheeler?s $1.5 billion E-rate expansion

On November 17, FCC Chairman Wheeler began circulating a draft order to increase E-rate funding by $1.5 billion per year. The E-rate provides subsidies to schools and libraries for telecommunications services. The proposal would raise the current $2.4 billion annual E-rate cap to $3.9 billion.

CWA issued a statement of support.

“The Communications Workers of America supports FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to raise the cap on E-Rate funding. High-speed Internet connectivity is critical for 21st century schools and libraries, yet the E-Rate is stuck at 1998 funding levels. Chairman Wheeler's proposed $1.5 billion annual increase in funding for schools and libraries – which will bring total E-Rate funding to $3.9 billion a year – will cost consumers a mere 16 cents a month on their phone bills. This is a small price to pay to bring our schools and libraries the high-speed Internet connectivity they need.”

Earlier this year, the FCC adopted an E-Rate Modernization Order, setting Internet connectivity targets of 1 gigabit per every 1,000 users (for schools) and 1 gigabit for libraries serving more than 50,000 people. According to the FCC:

•     68 percent of all districts (73 percent of rural districts) report that not a single school in their district meets the FCC connectivity targets.

•    Half of all public libraries report connections of less than 10 Mbps (70 percent of all rural libraries), and less than 1 percent meet the FCC’s long-term connectivity targets.

According to economic models submitted to the FCC, meeting the FCC’s connectivity targets requires E-rate funding of over $4 billion per year. According to the FCC Blog, the funding increase will ensure that “Internet connections to schools and libraries are sufficiently robust to support the increasing demands of 21st century digital learning, including the new Wi-Fi networks and all the tablets and laptops that will be connected to them.”

The FCC will consider the E-rate proposal at its December meeting.

You can read the FCC’s Fact Sheet on E-rate modernization here, and an FCC staff report on E-rate data here.

Taking the Next Step in E-rate Modernization (FCC Blog, Nov. 17, 2014)
 
CWA Statement on the Proposal by FCC Chair Wheeler to Raise the E-Rate Cap (CWA statement, Nov. 17, 2014)

Report And Order And Further Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC report, Jul. 23, 2014)
 
Fact Sheet: FCC Chairman Wheeler’s plan to reboot the E-rate program to meet the needs of 21st century digital learning (FCC, Nov. 2014)
 
FCC E-rate Data Update
(FCC staff report, Nov. 17, 2014)