The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modernize the E-rate program, increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools, and address the technology gaps that remain.
NSBA urges the FCC to address the funding needs of schools’ and libraries’ Internet connectivity. In comments to the FCC on proposed rules to modernize the program, NSBA notes that, other than inflationary adjustments authorized in 2010, there has been no increase in the $2.25 billion cap on E-Rate resources since the program’s inception in 1996, and demand has consistently been much higher than the available funding. The current demand is $4.9 billion.
“The E-rate program is critical to schools and libraries to maintain their internet services, and Congress must address this program’s unmet needs before expanding its eligibility to other areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “E-rate has greatly expanded the use of internet connectivity and services in schools and libraries throughout the country, particularly those in rural areas, and the FCC should build on the E-rate program’s tremendous success by permanently increasing funding to meet the need for schools and libraries.”
NSBA recommends streamlining the administration of the program through multi-year applications, electronic filing and other improvements to increase its cost-effectiveness. NSBA also cautions the FCC against phasing down some of the longstanding components of the program, particularly telephone services, because universal Broadband has not yet been achieved. And NSBA urges the FCC not to mandate district-wide eligibility or applications.
“E-Rate has been successful largely because it allows school boards and other district and school leaders to make decisions based on their students’ and local communities’ needs,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy. “Any changes to the E-Rate program should not undermine innovation by local school districts through mandates and should maximize local flexibility.”