The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following statement on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Notice on the Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-rate Modernization to modernize the E-rate program and increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools.
For nearly twenty years, NSBA has supported the goals of the E-rate program to increase Internet connectivity and provide digital learning opportunities to underserved students, schools and libraries. NSBA also is steadfast in its support for the ConnectED initiative and Broadband deployment in education, so that students are prepared to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace.
To assure that these goals can be met, NSBA renews its call for the FCC to address the funding needs of schools and libraries. 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.
Modernization of E-rate is essential to increasing the quality and speed of Internet connectivity and to close technology gaps that remain, and NSBA will carefully consider the FCC proposal to explore a new future for the program. However, NSBA cautions against redirecting static resources without regard to the impact on the beneficiaries of the E-rate program – high-need students, schools and libraries.
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. The Public Notice acknowledges NSBA’s position that local decision making has been one of the hallmarks of the E-rate program. Any changes to the E-rate program should not undermine innovation by local school districts through mandates and should maximize local flexibility.