Report: FCC Upgrades Internet Service for Schools and Libraries
9/27/2010The New York Times reports that on September 23, 2010 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an extensive upgrade to its E-Rate program. Established by Congress and a part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the E-rate program helps U.S. schools and libraries in poor and rural areas obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. The overhaul is designed to give schools more options for faster Internet service, allow for community Internet use and begin pilot programs for wireless connectivity. The FCC asserts that “these changes will help ensure that America’s students can learn and develop the high-tech skills necessary to compete in the 21st Century economy.”
The E-Rate upgrade makes it easier for schools and libraries to get the highest speeds for the lowest prices by increasing their options for broadband providers and streamlining the application process. The E-rate program covers the costs of telecommunications, Internet service and the installation of internal networks.
Approximately one year ago on September 9, 2009, Continuing and Innovative Education (CIE) hosted a FCC press conference on the importance of broadband Internet technology for distance learning. The University of Texas at Austin was the first stop on a nationwide tour by the FCC to promote broadband use in education. Students and directors of CIE program such as the Online High School, the Migrant Student Program and LUCHA spoke publicly about the impact distance learning had on their lives.
During that press conference, FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker said, “I’m so thrilled that UT Distance Learning is being showcased as part of our first National Broadband Plan meeting…UT’s Distance Learning program is the perfect example of the benefits that broadband Internet can bring to the American people,” commented Commissioner Baker. “Through distance learning programs like the ones here at UT, students in rural areas and anywhere in the country will be able to receive quality instruction providing them with the necessary skills to succeed, compete, and prosper in today’s global economy.”
The FCC’s upgrades to E-rate include:
- “Super-Fast Fiber”: Participating schools and libraries can use E-rate funds to upgrade to super fast broadband connections in cost-effective methods, including via unused fiber optic lines already in place across the country.
- “School Spots”: Schools have the option to provide Internet access to the local community after students go home. School Spots help ensure that people who otherwise lack access can use broadband.
- “Learning On-the-Go”: The FCC is launching a pilot program that supports off-campus wireless Internet connectivity for mobile learning devices.
More information about this upgrade may be found at the FCC Web site. Also, read more about the FCC press conference hosted by CIE.