Simplifying the rules on fiber deployment is one of many areas the FCC is seeking comment on.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on July 19 to open a new rulemaking process aimed at updating and enhancing the federal eRate program, which currently provides $2.3 billion in telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries.

The vote, which follows President Obama’s ConnectED proposal last month to enhance high-speed internet access for the nation’s schools, marks an important first step in transforming the program to meet current needs, advocates say.

“Only a little over one month since President Obama announced his bold agenda, we are encouraged by the FCC’s steps to make ‘ConnectED’ a reality in classrooms nationwide,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking, in a statement.

“The sooner we raise the eRate’s annual cap and equip schools with increased bandwidth, the sooner students will reap the benefits of true 21st-century teaching and learning environments,” Krueger added. “This initiative moves our schools in that direction.”

The FCC’s action begins a thorough review and modernization of the eRate built around three goals, the agency said: increased broadband capacity, cost-effective purchasing, and streamlined program administration.

(Next page: More details about the FCC’s notice)