The E-Rate program has been helping U.S. schools and libraries connect to the internet since 1997. The largest federal education technology program, E-Rate was authorized under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The E-Rate program has played a major role in increasing public school classroom internet connections, from 14 percent in 1998 to more than 95 percent today. E-Rate has also helped low-income, minority and rural students gain nearly the same access to the internet that their peers around the country have.
Over the past several years, the need for high-speed broadband has increased because of the bandwidth required for today’s digital applications and services. To ensure that school systems keep apace of bandwidth needs, ISTE and U.S. educators called on the FCC in 2013-14 to modernize E-Rate.
Throughout the process, educators submitted comments to the FCC, signed ISTE petitions, shared school broadband stories and tweeted the FCC about the need to increase funding. In 2014, the FCC approved a massive $1.5 billion annual increase for the E-Rate program to help schools pay for broadband connectivity and network infrastructure. The FCC also restructured the program.
As the infographic below illustrates, since the completion of E-Rate modernization, the program’s new focus and additional funding have helped schools make great strides in ensuring all classrooms have robust Wi-FI. Additionally, the program’s new emphasis on assisting schools and libraries to connect to broadband has helped stimulate competition and drive down Internet access costs. In short: #erateworks.