What does good management have to do with quality education? When it comes to the E-rate program, quite a bit. In recent months, we have been improving management of E-rate to speed approval of broadband expansion projects sought by schools and libraries across the country. And it’s working: E-rate funding will reach the $1 billion milestone this week for funding year 2014, twice as fast as any previous year in E-Rate history.
These early commitments will enable schools and libraries to put E-rate dollars to work sooner for students and patrons. For example, E-rate supported broadband connections will help the Baltimore County Public School System continue its roll-out of a one-to-one personalized digital learning environment to the district’s 100,000 students.
We’ve made a particular effort to speed larger applications this year, including state and regional consortia. Included in the $1 billion of commitments to date are state-level consortium applications in Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Statewide and consortium applications can simplify processes for applicants, increase access in rural areas, and drive down costs for consortium members and for E-rate. For example, the Mississippi state consortium recently negotiated new, low, flat-rate pricing for high speed connectivity across most of the state, driving down prices for all districts, and helping rural districts get connected without special construction charges. The program administrator – USAC – and the FCC have dramatically accelerated the processing of state-level consortium applications this year.
You can search other funding commitments on USAC’s web site.
Since its inception in 1997, E-Rate has provided billions in support that has helped connect most schools and libraries to the Internet. But most schools need better broadband to meet the demands of today’s innovative digital learning opportunities. That why, in addition to our recent management improvements, the FCC is considering broader reforms that will enable schools and libraries to get the robust broadband they need.
So stay tuned