Time to ask for more eRate funding

If educators contact the FCC in large numbers, we might be able to more than double the annual funding available for the eRate.

“Why do we have faster internet access at the local coffee shop than in the average classroom? Let’s change that situation.”

This fall, the new school year arrives with exceptional promise, as it brings a rare opportunity to increase funding for the eRate—the only federal program focused on K-12 education technology.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a rulemaking process to examine the eRate’s structure, the services it supports, and the adequacy of its funding. Educators need to speak up—and loudly—to make the case that our classrooms need greater eRate support to meet 21st-century needs.

If America’s educators contact the FCC in large numbers, we might be able to more than double annual eRate funding and greatly expand the number of classrooms with high-speed internet access.

17 years later

The last time such a pivotal moment in ed-tech policy occurred was 1996, when a bipartisan coalition of senators—led by Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine—created the eRate program. Back then, the goal—now largely achieved—was to ensure that every classroom had a basic connection to the internet. Now, 17 years and more than $30 billion in eRate commitments later, the stars seem to be aligning for big changes to the eRate.

In June, President Obama proposed ConnectED, an initiative to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet at high speeds within five years. This goal, which is focused on making sure that all classrooms can transition from basic to high-speed connectivity, can only be met by at least doubling the funding levels for the eRate.

The FCC, the agency that oversees the eRate, has invited initial comments on changes to the program by Sept. 16, with reply comments due Oct. 16. Now is the time to make your voice heard.

(Next page: How to speak up)

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