Last summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved some of the most sweeping changes to the E-Rate program since its launch in 1998. The E-Rate program, enacted as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, aims to help all K-12 schools and public libraries connect to the internet. The program provides deep, poverty-based discounts on telecommunications services, internet access and internal building connections.
Since its inception, E-Rate has supported connections to virtually every school and library in the United States. It has helped rural schools overcome geography challenges and urban libraries keep costs down. Community members can even make use of E-Rate supported connectivity after school hours, allowing students to complete homework, job seekers to fill out applications and those in need of assistance to access government services.
But E-Rate's work is by no means done. The bandwidth necessary for mobile learning, digital textbooks and online assessments — none of which existed in 1998 — is more than the E-Rate program can handle. That's why, over the past 18 months, the FCC has taken steps to modernize E-Rate in the following ways:
- It set bandwidth goals for schools and libraries.
- It eliminated support for nonbroadband services, such as voice, email and web hosting.
- It focused Priority 2 support on Wi-Fi and established a new formula to distribute funds for this category.
The FCC is now considering whether to raise the E-Rate funding cap.
In this webinar, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel; ISTE's Washington-based lobbyist, Jon Bernstein; and Mel Blackwell, who is charged with implementing the changes to E-Rate on an administrative level, discuss what the E-Rate changes mean for schools. After the discussion, Mary Wegner, a Sitka, Alaska, school superintendent, and Sheryl Abshire, the CTO of Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, talk about how schools are adapting to these major E-Rate shifts.
Craig Thibaudeau is ISTE's chief external relations officer. He has more than 30 years of senior-level association management experience representing U.S. nonprofit, domestic and international organizations and has specialized in nonprofit strategic planning, legislative advocacy, marketing and communications, membership, and event management .