Seventy-two percent of E-rate applicants participating in a recent survey said wi-fi is critical to fulfilling their organization’s mission.

Twenty years after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 created E-rate funding, significant measures are underway to update the program that has become vital to schools and libraries across the United States.

The E-rate Trends Report from Funds For Learning aims to help policymakers, administrators and other stakeholders as they shape the future of the program.

Next page: Top findings from the report

Based on a survey of 1,016 applicants representing a cross-section that closely matches the overall population of applicants, the report sheds light on how applicants perceive the program’s utility and effectiveness.

Notable findings include:

  • 90 percent of respondents expect to add faster internet connections over the next three years
  • 79 percent of respondents said they do not have a backup or secondary internet connection in the event that their primary connection fails
  • 60 percent of respondents reported difficulty navigating the new E-rate Productivity Center
  • 94 percent of respondents indicated their organization will continue to apply for E-rate funding in the future
  • 85 percent said the program is vital to their organization’s internet connectivity goals
  • 77 percent said they are able to connect more students or library patrons to the internet because of E-rate
  • 76 percent said they have faster internet because of the E-rate

If allowed to make changes to the Eligible Services List, 45 percent of survey participants would add voice services, 12 percent would add filtering and security, and 10 percent would add end-user devices.

Just 18 percent of respondents said the current $150 per student E-rate budget cap is sufficient to meet their school’s needs. Thirty-five percent said $151-$250 is sufficient, 28 percent said $251-$350 is sufficient, and 19 percent said more than $350 is sufficient.

“The E-rate program has never been more pivotal to ensuring our students and library patrons are connected in an increasingly digital society,” said John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning. “Gathering feedback directly from applicants is an important step in understanding what’s working and how the program can be improved to better serve our communities.”

The program supports more than 118,000 school and library facilities and 50.4 million K-12 students.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura