Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to increase funding for the federal E-rate program by $1.5 billion annually in order to help U.S. schools and libraries improve internet access. The decision will allow the United States to expand high-speed Wi-Fi access to 43.5 million additional students, over 101,000 additional schools, and nearly 16,000 additional libraries.
“The FCC’s decision is the best holiday gift possible for the nation’s students and teachers,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “With increased funding for high-speed internet connections, U.S. teachers and students will spend more classroom time teaching and learning rather than waiting for webpages and videos to load.”
E-rate has been a tremendous asset to the nation’s education system. When E-rate was first enacted in 1996, only 14 percent of the nation’s schools were connected to the internet. Today, nearly all schools and libraries are connected. Despite that success, E-rate struggled to meet the demand and many schools and libraries still do not have access to high-speed broadband.
To pay for the increase in funding, the FCC expects that a consumer or business will see their telephone bills increase by about 16 cents a month or $1.90 a year.
“Access to the internet is as important to learning today as traditional textbooks were fifty years ago,” said Wise. “For less than the cost of a holiday greeting card, the FCC’s decision will bring the American education system out of the internet dark ages of slow or non-existent internet connections and into a twenty-first-century learning environment of rich, rigorous, and engaging content that can be personalized for every student.”
To help school districts make this transition, the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education launched the Future Ready Schools Initiative—an unprecedented coordination of public, nonprofit, and private resources to ensure that every student has access to the best learning opportunities through effective technology and quality teaching.
“The Future Ready Schools Initiative comes at a critical time as school districts embrace college and career readiness as the goal for all students and recognize the potential of digital tools to help teachers personalize learning for each student,” Wise said. “It will help districts avoid pitfalls that are sometimes associated with technology purchases and planning while ensuring that school leaders, teachers, and students receive the support and tools they need to implement technology effectively.”
To learn more about the Future Ready Schools Initiative and access the free resources available to support school districts, visit www.futurereadyschools.org.
For state-by-state information on how many students, schools, and libraries will benefit in each state from today’s FCC vote, visit http://99in5.org/resources-