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The FCC's E-rate program connects the nation's schools and libraries to broadband.  It is the government's largest educational technology program.  When E-rate was established in 1996, only 14 percent of the nation's K-12 classrooms had access to the Internet. Today, virtually all schools and libraries have Internet access.

But learning is changing.  Innovative digital learning technologies and the growing importance of the Internet in connecting students, teachers and consumers to jobs, life-long learning and information, are creating increasing demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries.  In an FCC survey of E-rate recipients, nearly half of respondents reported lower speed Internet connectivity than the average American home - despite having, on average, 200 times as many users.

The FCC began updating E-rate in 2010 and on July 11, 2014, released the E-rate Modernization Order (see Order Summary), expanding wi-fi networks in schools and libraries across America while ensuring support continues to be available for broadband connectivity to schools and libraries.

On Aug. 4, 2014, the FCC released a public notice seeking comment on a draft Eligible Services List (ESL) for funding year 2015. Comments on the draft ESL are due Sept. 3, 2014 and reply comments are due on Sept. 18, 2014.

The program increases focus on the largest and most urgent need—closing the wi-fi gap—while transitioning support away from legacy technologies to 21st Century broadband connectivity, ensuring E-rate money is spent smartly, and improving program administration. The reform will expand Wi-Fi to more than 10 million students in 2015 alone. In the E-rate Modernization Order, the FCC also seeks comment on:

  • Long-term program funding needs necessary to meet goals and funding targets established in the Order
  • Further steps to facilitate the use of cost-effective consortium-based purchasing, and
  • Alternative methodologies for allocating support for library Wi-Fi connectivity.

Modernizing E-rate is critical for the future of our children and our citizens. We encourage all to comment on the reform proposals so that we can ensure that schools and libraries have affordable access to the high-speed broadband they need - in the most effective, efficient way possible.

To assist stakeholders in navigating the data-intensive record in this proceeding, the Bureau released a Staff Report jointly authored by the Bureau and the Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis and two Fiber Connectivity Maps on Aug. 12, 2014. Please read FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins' blog post "Moving Forward with a Data-Driven E-rate Modernization Process" for additional information.

To further assist the Commission, stakeholders and the public in navigating the large and data-intensive record in the E-rate Modernization proceeding as the long-term funding needs of the program are considered, on Nov. 17, 2014, the Bureau released an E-rate Data Update (Word | PDF) to supplement the Staff Report.


Fact Sheet: FCC Chairman Wheeler's Plan to Reboot the E-Rate Program to Meet the Needs of 21st Century Digital Learning Word | PDF (11/17/14)

Chairman Wheeler's blog post: Helping American Students Compete in a Digital World (1/24/14)

FCC Launches Update of E-Rate for Broadband in Schools and Libraries

Open Meeting Presentation on LEAD Recommendations and Digital Learning

  • LEAD Commission Remarks: PDF
  • Dr. John Word Remarks: Word | PDF; Dr. Word Presentation: PDF

FCC E-Rate Modernization Initiative Draws Broad Support

  • Supportive statements from President Obama, Education Secretary Duncan, Sen. Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller, the bipartisan LEAD Commission, and numerous education, public interest, and industry groups
Updated: November 17, 2014

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