The E-rate program needs a major funding boost to meet demand and should continue its focus on high-need school districts and libraries, a letter signed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC should permanently raise the E-rate’s annual funding cap, now at $2.4 billion, as annual demand is estimated to be double that amount, the letter states. Further, the program must be expanded to ensure adequate bandwidth reaches every classroom and student–not just the school building door, which was the program’s intent when it was first created to provide low-cost connectivity as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and four other commissioners by EdLiNC, The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition, which advocates for the E-rate program on behalf of national education associations. It was signed by NSBA and 18 other organizations.
The lack of support for internal connections “is creating major roadblocks” for students and educators to have enough bandwidth to participate in activities such as online research or digital learning classes, the letter states.
The letter also urges the FCC to continue the E-rate’s poverty-based funding formula rather than proposed allocations that would spread funding by students, buildings, or school districts.
“A change to the current funding formula would undermine the E-rate program’s focus on equity for the nation’s underserved schools and communities, particularly those in rural areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The E-rate has been tremendously successful in helping high-poverty and rural areas access technology, and the FCC should build on that success by increasing funding to meet demand.”
The FCC is considering changes to the program and is expected to issue a Report and Order to modernize E-Rate sometime this year. For more information, read NSBA’s Issue Brief on the E-rate.