U.S. Schools Get $2 Billion Infusion for High-Speed Internet

The FCC will double its investment in fast connections for schools.

Nursery school pupils work with tablet computers on March 18, 2013 in Haguenau, northeastern France.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Feb. 3, 2014, 12:15 p.m.

U.S. schools and lib­rar­ies will get a $2 bil­lion dol­lar in­fu­sion from the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion for high-speed In­ter­net ac­cess.

The FCC an­nounced plans Monday to double its in­vest­ment in schools’ broad­band net­works over the next two years through the agency’s E-Rate pro­gram.

The FCC’s move is one leg of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to con­nect 99 per­cent of U.S. schools to high-speed In­ter­net with­in the next five years, re­af­firmed by the pres­id­ent in his State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

“In the In­ter­net age, every stu­dent in Amer­ica should have ac­cess to state-of-the-art edu­ca­tion­al tools, which are in­creas­ingly in­ter­act­ive, in­di­vidu­al­ized, and band­width-in­tens­ive,” FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er said in a state­ment.

The ad­di­tion­al money will come from a re­or­gan­iz­a­tion of E-Rate’s funds, not from an in­crease in rates for wire­less and phone cus­tom­ers.

“By ap­ply­ing busi­ness-like man­age­ment prac­tices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make ex­ist­ing funds go farther to sig­ni­fic­antly in­crease our in­vest­ment in high-speed broad­band con­nectiv­ity for schools and lib­rar­ies for the be­ne­fit of our stu­dents and teach­ers,” Wheel­er said.

The in­vest­ment is one part of com­pre­hens­ive E-Rate re­form that began last year and has been ac­cel­er­ated by the new chair­man. The E-Rate pro­gram was es­tab­lished in 1996 as part of the Uni­ver­sal Ser­vice Fund and has con­nec­ted most schools and lib­rar­ies with ba­sic In­ter­net ac­cess.

The pres­id­ent Tues­day is ex­pec­ted to an­nounce ad­di­tion­al fund­ing through private part­ner­ships with com­pan­ies in­clud­ing Apple, Mi­crosoft, Sprint, and Ve­r­i­zon.

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