Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Tom Wheeler today announced that the FCC will increase funding for the federal E-Rate program by $1.5 billion, bringing the annual total to just under $4 billion. The FCC is expected to consider the proposal at their next meeting on December 11.
“Chairman Wheeler’s proposal recognizes that students cannot engage in 21st century learning without 21st century tools,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Increasing the funding level of the E-Rate program brings us closer to the promise of connecting students with peers and resources around the globe, of empowering students to lead their own learning, and of amplifying their voices as creators of content. The simple bandwidth of a fiber optic line conveys not just bits of data, but boundless opportunity for each student it reaches.”
NASSP has long supported the E-Rate program and urged the FCC to provide additional funding to meet the growing need for Internet broadband and Wi-Fi services in our nation’s secondary schools. Over the past year, we have called on the FCC to immediately and permanently increase the program’s annual funding level.
Funded at $2.25 billion annually since 1999, the E-Rate was level-funded until 2010, when it began receiving annual inflationary increases. Total funding for the program in FY 2013 was $2.43 billion, less than half of school and library demand for that year. An increase of $1.5 billion equates to just 16 cents per month per telephone line, or less than a penny per day.
Without the ability to access greater bandwidth speeds in classrooms, our nation’s students would be hamstrung in their efforts to use digital textbooks, participate in online and distance learning courses, and take online assessments. In addition, we have consistently maintained that the E-Rate’s annual funding cap, essentially unchanged from its inception, is grossly inadequate to fund the bandwidth increases so many schools require with the growing use of laptops and digital devices.
Through the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP’s advocacy staff attended meetings with Chairman Wheeler and his staff to advocate on behalf of the E-Rate beneficiaries—your schools and the students you serve. We also submitted comments in response to proposals to modernize the program that were released earlier this year and have urged principals to talk about the importance of the E-Rate programs in meetings with their federal legislators. Our advocacy efforts will continue as we expect the new Congress to review the FCC actions in 2015.
For more information, view the FCC’s fact sheet here.