E-Rate scores big

It’s been a big week for high-level support of E-Rate – the federal schools and libraries telecommunications program.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke to the tenth annual State of the Net Conference in Washington this week. That’s state of the net, not state of the union; that comes later.

Wheeler told the tech crowd that the FCC could greatly increase funds going to school broadband through E-Rate and other programs. According to one report, Wheeler said that by using “business-like, cash flow management concepts, it will double the amount of money that is going to broadband installations this year, and be able to address this challenge immediately by saying we are going to make sure that 21st century students get a 21st century education.”

At the same time, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel spoke at the Sesame Street Workshop in New York, where she praised E-Rate as “the nation’s largest educational technology program [which] helps connect all of our schools and libraries to modern communications and the Internet.”

But, she said, “... the challenge today is not connection – it’s capacity. Too many of our E-Rate schools access the Internet at speeds as slow as 3 Megabits. That is lower than the speed of the average American home... too many schools do not have the capacity to offer high definition streaming video [or] the most innovative digital teaching tools.”

This past Tuesday, President Obama said in the State of the Union address, “Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.”

In response to the president, Tom Wheeler said:

“In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive. The Federal Communications Commission shares the President’s commitment to seizing the opportunities of digital learning, which is why we’ve already launched an effort to modernize our successful E-Rate program – the nation’s largest education technology program.”

Speed Matters supports the federal E-Rate program and other efforts to bring the fastest, most reliable broadband to the nation’s schools and libraries.

State of the Net Conference (Internet Education Foundation Jan. 24, 2014)

Learning At Home: Families’ Educational Media Use In America
(FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Jan. 24, 2014)

President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address (National Journal, Jan. 28, 2014)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the State Of The Union Address and the FCC’s E-Rate Program (FCC, Jan. 28, 2014)