The Federal Communications Commission on Monday (November 17, 2014) announced an increase in the E-Rate program, which aims to provide discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access, in order to meet President Obama’s call for 99 percent of all classrooms to be connected to broadband. The National Education Association and more than one hundred national advocacy organizations that represent the intended beneficiaries of the E-rate Program have advocated to the FCC to permanently increase its funding.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:
“The Federal Communications Commission announcement is good for America’s students and makes for smart public policy. Increasing the funding level of the E-Rate Program will continue to bring broadband to the communities that need it the most—students and educators in urban, rural, and low-density populated areas. More to the point, investing now in the E-Rate Program to help students will pay off in the long run.
“Educators know first-hand the tremendous, positive impact the E-Rate Program has had in our classrooms, schools and communities. Without the E-Rate Program, many of our schools—especially in rural areas—would have been unable to sustain on-going access to the Internet. Today’s announcement will go a long way to help level the digital playing field for our country’s students and ensuring equity.
“It’s worth noting that a cap in funding has been in place since the program’s inception 18 years ago. We know how much the world—and technology in particular—has changed since. The digital world today is not what the creators of E-Rate imagined when they designed the program. Today’s decision marks an important milestone to shift the focus towards the 21st century so that students and end-users can continue to benefit from digital connectivity in classrooms and schools around the country.
“We commend Chairman Tom Wheeler for seizing the moment and including the voices of educators in the decision-making process that led to today’s announcement, which is a positive step towards reaching the level of digital accessibility needed for our students to learn, create, and ultimately, compete in the 21st century economy.”