FCC commences E-rate programme overhaul

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By Christine A Reilly and Glenn S Richards

The 20 August 2013 Federal Register (FedReg) included a notice officially establishing the comment and reply cycle associated with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) recently released Modernizing the E-Rate Program for Schools and Libraries notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). According to the FedReg notice, comments are due 16 September, 2013 and reply comments are due 16 October, 2013. This is the Commission’s latest effort to modernise and streamline the E-Rate program.

The catalyst for this ambitious initiative is President Obama’s ConnectED initiative (the Initiative), which establishes that within five years 99 per cent of US students will have access to broadband and high-speed Internet access (at least 100 MBPS with a goal of one GPS within five years) within their schools and libraries. The Initiative includes: 1) providing the training and support for teachers needed for the effective use of technology in the classroom and 2) encouraging the development and deployment of complimentary devices and software to enhance learning experiences and 3) resurrecting the US as a world leader in educational achievement.

The E-rate program was created in 1997 to ‘ensur[e] that schools and libraries ha[d] the connectivity necessary to enable students and library patrons to participate in the digital world.’ According to the NPRM, the program commenced when ‘only 14 per cent of the classrooms had access to the Internet, and most schools with Internet access (74 percent) used dial-up Internet access.’ Seven years later, ‘nearly all schools had access to the Internet, and 94 per cent of all instructional classrooms…

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