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Wheeler?s E-Rate modernization proposal released

22 Jun, 2014

For 18 years, E-rate has been an important federal program which helps most U.S. schools and libraries acquire affordable Internet access. But it’s in need of extensive expansion and updating.

This past week, FCC Chairman Wheeler released a draft order outlining steps needed to bring E-Rate into the 21st century. It proposes three major avenues of expansion:

•    Close the Wi-Fi Gap. It commits “least $1 billion in support to Wi-Fi next year to connect over 10 million students across the country in 2015, followed by another $1 billion in 2016 with predictable support continuing in future years.

•    Make E-Rate Dollars Go Farther. It sets “the maximum program match at 4 to 1 – which means for every dollar the poorest schools spend, the program will spend four – for Wi-Fi services to promote cost-effective decision-making.”

•    Deliver Faster, Simpler, More Efficient Applications and Other Processes. This includes, among other goals, “fast, simple process for multi-year applications, and zero tolerance for fraud or abuse: toughen document retention and site inspection rules.”

These steps are necessary because as the FCC said, “Educational connectivity has changed: whereas once it was revolutionary to connect a computer lab down the hall to the Internet, harnessing the full value of digital learning today means enabling all students to go online from their desk or from any library workspace.”

FCC Chairman Wheeler proposes landmark E-Rate modernization (FCC, Jun. 2014)

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