What you need to know:
Hundreds of education stakeholders spoke out about the importance of E-Rate during the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) public comment period. Thank you to the 600+ ISTE supporters
(PDF) who weighed in. Read ISTE's comments to the FCC
(PDF). Why it matters:
Billions of dollars in additional funding are needed to support an updated E-Rate program to ensure all U.S. students
have high-speed broadband and wireless. Success would be a game-changer for learners living in a connected world — and for the educators supporting them.
E-Rate Then and E-Rate Today
Most schools across the country receive funding from the E-Rate program, which provides public and private schools and libraries discounts for telecommunications services and internet access. Launched in 1996, this successful program has connected more than 95 percent of our nation’s classrooms to the internet. ISTE was one of the leading organizations to advocate for the establishment of the E-Rate program in 1996 and has since been a steward in strongly supporting its continued vitality.
In April 2013, 15 years after E-Rate’s launch, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel started the ball rolling on E-Rate 2.0 by unveiling her vision for E-Rate’s future at a speech at the Washington Education Technology Policy Summit, hosted by ISTE and partner organizations. She set the stage for the debate in which the FCC is currently engaged by saying, “We need a modern conversation about E-Rate funding, capacity goals, public-private partnerships, simplifying the application process and studying the need for access outside of school hours. I welcome your ideas. E-Rate has already done so much good, and there is opportunity to do so much more. It can become the platform for expanding digital age learning, growing opportunity and preparing a 21st century workforce to compete.”
In June, President Obama added his voice to the E-Rate debate by announcing the ConnectEd initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband and wireless within five years. The president’s initiative charged the FCC, which has jurisdiction over the E-Rate program, to make the necessary changes to the program to achieve this goal. ISTE CEO Brian Lewis and ISTE President Kecia Ray attended President Obama’s announcement of the initiative.
Momentum for E-Rate 2.0 continued at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio where Commissioner Rosenworcel reiterated her call to action: “The time is right. Let’s reboot, reinvigorate and recharge the E-Rate program.” In addition, during the conference, more than 1,700 educators signed an ISTE petition urging the FCC commissioners take action to “accomplish the goals of the ConnectEd initiative to ensure that all of our nation’s classrooms have high-speed broadband connectivity and all educators have the professional learning and access to digital resources they need for students to compete in the global 21st century economy.” The petition was delivered to the commissioners on July 11.
The rallying cry for E-Rate 2.0 moved to Washington, D.C. in July, where Sheryl Abshire, Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators past-president, ISTE member and ISTE Public Policy Advocate Award-winner, testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
Abshire told the senators, “I am here today to join my voice with the voices of Chairman Rockefeller and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in declaring the need for E-Rate 2.0. In my view, any serious effort to change the program must start with increasing E-Rate’s annual support for the long term. For years, my colleagues and I have shouted from the rooftops that E-Rate was in danger of evaporating because of escalating need for its support with no significant funding increase to match. Now, we stand on the threshold of internal connections support becoming extinct and telephone and internet access support facing cutbacks. We cannot let this happen.”
On July 19, E-Rate 2.0 reached a major milestone when the FCC launched a rulemaking process to update the E-Rate program. Within this E-Rate Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the FCC sought comment on modernizing E-Rate and increasing the program's annual spending cap. Hundreds of education stakeholders submitted comments about E-Rate to inform the FCC's next steps.