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E-Rate Program

NEA continues to be a strong advocate and defender of the E-Rate program, which has single-handedly transformed access and affordability to internet connectivity in the nation’s public and private schools and libraries. Mandated by the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996 and implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), E-Rate provides discounted internet access and connections to eligible public and private schools and public libraries. Hailed as a resounding and continued success, E-Rate has grown the share of schools connected to the internet from 14 percent in 1996 to more than 99 percent today. The E-Rate program is critical to supporting 21st century teaching and learning.  

E-Rate Modernization in 2014

The E-Rate program underwent its first and only significant overhaul or modernization in 2014.  Highlights included:

  • A much-needed increase in the program’s funding cap – the first ever – in response to the more than $5 billion in applicant demand for the $2.4 billion then available. The one-time annual cap increase of $1.5 billion raised the amount of available E-Rate funds to $3.9 billion per year, a big step toward right-sizing the program.
  • Continuing to target the greatest discounts to schools and libraries with the greatest need (concentration of poverty, etc.). Equitable distribution of discounts is a cornerstone of the E-Rate program.
    • Eligible schools and libraries may receive discounts on eligible Category One (C1) services (ongoing, robust broadband connectivity), and Category Two (C2) services (internal connections such as wi-fi routers to distribute broadband among classrooms, devices, etc.).
    • The discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, with higher discounts for higher poverty and rural schools and libraries. 

Post E-Rate Modernization

NEA continues to advocate for core principals of the program, including:

  • Maintaining the much needed, one-time increase in E-Rate’s funding cap. The 2014 increase was long overdue. NEA strongly opposes any changes that would lower the cap, as doing so could hurt the schools with the greatest needs, especially rural schools and schools serving low-income students.
  • Maintaining the equitable distribution of E-Rate discounts, which focuses funding on schools and libraries with the greatest need. NEA strongly opposes any proposals to change the current equity-based funding formula to a per-pupil distribution formula (including a block grant). Such a change would adversely affect students, schools, libraries, and communities, especially in rural areas.  

NEA, along with EdLiNC, which represents E-Rate beneficiaries and NEA helped found, continues to be a strong advocate for E-Rate. This program is vital to keeping our schools – and students – connected to the internet. 

NEA comments filed with FCC E-Rate Modernization in 2014 


RELATED ITEMS

  • anc_dyn_linksNEA Messages to Congress on E-Rate
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  • anc_dyn_linksGuide to Online High School Courses
  • anc_dyn_linksGuide to Teaching Online Courses

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