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
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