“As part of our top to bottom review of eRate, the opportunity has opened to use existing funds to immediately begin to expand eRate funding targeted to high-speed connectivity to students in schools and libraries,” he wrote. “These additionally available funds will begin to be put to work this year for schools and libraries. This will be done without affecting the program’s existing structures and the 2014 program application process that is now underway.”
As part of that post, Wheeler described his recent visit to a middle school receiving eRate funding to connect to the internet.
“My visit underscored the fact that the needs of our schools have dramatically changed since E-Rate began in 1996,” Wheeler wrote. “To be prepared for college and the 21st Century workforce, students today need to have access to state-of-the-art, interactive, educational content; and tools for student collaboration, student-teacher communication, and lesson planning. None of this will be possible if our students aren’t connected to networks capable of delivering that content and offering those tools.”
The move comes after a national call for increased broadband service in U.S. schools. President Obama’s ConnectED initiative aims to connect 99 percent of U.S. students to high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless in the next five years. Most recently, a group of 50 CEOs joined the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to urge the FCC to modernize the eRate program.