FCC chairman’s speech highlights eRate restructuring plans to get money to schools NOW
In what could be one of the most heartening examples of putting money where a mouth is, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just announced that the eRate will change in three significant ways to put money into the hands of schools immediately in order to provide internet access and close the digital divide.
“A little known fact about today’s eRate program is that only about half of the program’s funds go for broadband connectivity,” explained Wheeler. “Well less than half goes for the kind of 100 mbps and higher speeds necessary for today’s learning environment. In a 2013 National School Speed Test 72 percent of schools–that is nearly 40 million students didn’t have the access speeds they needed.”
Wheeler’s speech, part of National Digital Learning Day hosted at the Library of Congress, comes a day after President Obama announced over $750 million in private and public investment for high-speed internet in schools. (Read: “What to do with millions of dollars for education technology.”)
Wheeler related a recent experience at a middle school where the students described how the network would crash if too many of them pushed “Enter” simultaneously, and having to walk around the room holding their tablets up until they got a WiFi signal.
“Catherine Sandoval, one of the leading lights in state utility commissions, told me how students in one California school had to be bussed to another school to take the online core curriculum tests,” said Wheeler, “and how students in Beverly Hills were advantaged over students in less affluent schools because they were used to taking tests online whereas other students were not.”
“When 80 percent of teachers and administrators in schools participating in the eRate program say they do not have the bandwidth necessary to meet their educational needs, we have a problem that must be fixed,” he continued.
(Next page: 3 ways the eRate will be fixed immediately)