Last week, in advance of a key vote by the Federal Communications Commission set for early July, SETDA joined a coalition of more than 100 organizations – including the Alliance for Excellent Education, CCSSO, Digital Learning Now!, Digital Promise, iNACOL, the LEAD Commission, NASBE, and USDLA – to call on the FCC to expand high-speed internet access in schools and libraries.
The coalition letter represents the broadest and most diverse group to file with the FCC in this proceeding, demonstrating that there is a consensus for the FCC to act on the group’s recommended framework for action. The coalition signing the letter includes education organizations, technology advocates, businesses, foundations, civil rights organizations, community broadband organizations, libraries, and school districts. The signatories represent both rural and urban-based organizations as well as organizations from across the political spectrum.
In urging the FCC to modernize and expand E-rate, the coalition offers detailed recommendations for strengthening the program including the following:
- Focus E-rate not simply on connecting schools and libraries to the internet, but on increasing the capacity of internet connections, including Wi-Fi, so they can be used to implement effective digital learning practices.
- Prioritize high-capacity broadband and deploy ubiquitous wireless networks throughout the school and library so that the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s learners can be met.
- Provide incentives for schools and libraries to purchase high-speed broadband more efficiently, including those provided by consortia that are able to get more services at a lower cost.
- Simplify the program through common-sense reforms, such as eliminating paper-filing and allowing multi-year applications for recurring services.
In addition to reforming the E-rate program, the coalition urges the FCC to increase funding for the program.
Importantly, these reforms highlight many of the recommendations SETDA has made to the FCC since they first launched the E-rate modernization rule making in July 2013, which we’ve summarized in a prior blog post.
At SETDA, we believe broadband is the enabling technology of modern learning environments, and broadband concerns should never be a factor when teachers or students are planning for educational activities. Unless we swiftly and systematically move to address the dearth of bandwidth capacity in schools nationwide, we will find it to be the limiting factor in school reform and improvement. We hope the Commission acts on these common sense reforms as quickly as possible.