More students should have access to online learning, and the federal e-Rate program should be more widely deployed and should embrace and encourage innovation, according to the National Broadband Plan, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled on March 16.
The plan lays out recommendations for ways to equip the country, including schools and libraries, with affordable broadband internet access—a necessity as education stakeholders work to ensure that all students are equipped for 21st-century careers.
“The National Broadband Plan is a 21st-century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during a March 16 hearing.
“It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.”
“Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan” has direct implications for education that are addressed in a 22-page package. The plan, compiled by the Omnibus Broadband Initiative (OBI) at the FCC, states that broadband can enable improvements in public education by facilitating the delivery of eLearning and online content, which can provide more personalized learning opportunities for students. Broadband also can facilitate the flow of information, helping teachers, parents, schools, and other organizations make better decisions tied to each student’s needs and abilities.
Modernizing the e-Rate
Since the e-Rate’s inception in 1998, it has helped ensure that 97 percent of public schools have internet access, with thousands of schools and libraries receiving billions of dollars during the program’s existence.