In funding year 2013, the E-rate program provided $2.4 billion in discounts annually for advanced, affordable telecommunications and Internet services, and internal connections to public and private schools and public libraries.
Since its enactment by the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, the E-Rate program has, for countless students, opened the door to developing the skills needed to compete in a digital age and had overwhelming success in connecting our schools and libraries to the Internet. The E-rate program, a vital resource for enhancing student learning, is the fourth-largest source of non-state or local funding to schools. In fact, more than 8 out of 10 public schools rely upon E-rate discounts.
The program has been so successful that merely accessing the Internet is not enough.
President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative
In June 2013, President Obama unveiled the ConnectED Initiative aimed at connecting all schools to the digital age. The ConnectED initiative seeks to connect schools and libraries serving 99 percent of our students to next-generation high-capacity broadband (with speeds of no less than 100 Mbps and a target speed of 1 Gbps) and to provide high-capacity wireless connectivity within those schools and libraries within five years. President Obama has called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and leverage the E-rate program to help meet those targets.
Modernization of the E-rate
In July 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), or request for comments, on the E-rate program, in response to President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative. The FCC is seeking comments on ways to modernize and leverage the existing E-rate program in light of the fact that for 2013 funding year, schools and libraries sought E-rate funding in excess of $4.9 billion – nearly double the amount available. NEA believes that in order to support 21st century teaching and learning, the E-rate program needs an increase in funding coupled with cost-saving measures and efficiencies.
NEA filed initial comments with the FCC on September 16, 2013, and followed-up by filing reply comments on November 8, 2013. Educators were also encouraged to file their own personalized comments as part of the process to ensure their voices were heard and stories were shared – including those that highlight the ramifications of insufficient Internet capacity and how high-capacity broadband connectivity would enhance teaching and learning.
Read more about NEA positions on technology and education.
- Education and Library Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) Coalition of public and private schools and public libraries of which NEA is member.
- FCC Guide to E-rate Program
- Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC): Schools & Libraries E-rate To find funding specific to your state, see “Funding Commitment Tool” and use “advanced search”