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NEA supports E-Rate proposed changes that keep Internet connectivity intact

Vote is ‘important step,’ but NEA will be watching Wi-Fi program to ensure equity


WASHINGTON - July 11, 2014 -

The National Education Association lauded today’s vote by the Federal Communication Commission on reforms “to modernize” E-Rate, a program intended to support communications services for schools and libraries nationwide as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The E-Rate Program aims to provide discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access, in order to meet President Obama’s call for 99 percent of all classrooms to be connected to broadband. NEA, which represents 3 million teachers and other educators working in America’s public schools, joined more than a dozen national advocacy organizations expressing strong and unequivocal concerns with the FCC’s original proposed changes, but worked toward a compromised plan that will continue to support students in geographically isolated rural and high-poverty urban areas.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Today’s vote by the Federal Communication Commission to preserve the ongoing Internet connectivity in America’s schools and libraries is a win for students. There were initial concerns with the originally proposed changes attempting to modernize the E-Rate Program that could have harmed the very students it was designed to help and only widen the increasingly large technology gap. We applaud the Chairman and the Commission for listening to the concerns of educators in devising a final proposal that will connect all students to the Internet, including those in rural and high-poverty urban areas.

“NEA also supports the FCC for taking additional action today to help rural communities connect to broadband via the Connect America Fund. We want to thank FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai for their leadership in speaking up for the true front-line beneficiaries in this conversation—our students with the highest needs. We also applaud the members of Congress who joined NEA in amplifying the voices of educators in this critical discussion.

“NEA welcomes today’s decision to implement the proposed “modernized” reforms as a two-year Wi-Fi test instead of hastily rushing into permanent changes to the E-Rate Program without the necessary continued funding. But if we are serious about ensuring equity in our schools, all the demand for ongoing Internet connectivity must be met—especially in high-needs schools. Shifting our goals to establish Wi-Fi in targeted school districts, without increasing the cap, could undermine the historical importance and significance of the E-Rate Program.

“NEA’s 3 million members will be watching very closely over the next two years to ensure the very schools and libraries that have been isolated the most are not unduly harmed. At a time when information increasingly is delivered via the Internet, we need to focus more funding on connecting students in our highest-need schools and bring them into the 21st century. Today’s vote is an important step in realizing the potential of the E-Rate Program and to ensure all schools and libraries have robust broadband capacity, but there is a lot of work to be done.”

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The National Education Association (www.nea.org) is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, (202) 270-5333 cell, smaiers@nea.org


RELATED LINKS

Advocacy organization coalition letter

Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller statement on FCC vote on initial steps to modernize E-Rate

Chicago Tribune | U.S. FCC votes to refocus Internet subsidy for schools

E-Rate program