Experts: eRate changes certain, but details unknown

Big changes to federal program could mean better access, connectivity

eRate-changesIn the midst of a federal government shutdown, strained school budgets, and calls for education reform are potentially wide-reaching changes to the eRate—the federal $2.25-billion-a-year program that makes it possible for schools and libraries to connect to the internet and give students the opportunity to cultivate the skills they need to compete in a global economy.

Recent efforts to improve schools’ access to reliable high-speed internet have increased, and manifested most notably in President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of U.S. students and schools to high-speed broadband internet in five years. This initiative is critically linked to the eRate program, experts say.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees the eRate, issued a rulemaking process to evaluate the eRate in its entirety, and more than 800 schools and districts, ed-tech advocates, and stakeholders submitted comments to the FCC regarding these proposed changes. Initial comments were due in September, and reply comments are due on Oct. 16, although the actual deadline remains uncertain because the FCC is shuttered during the federal shutdown. Comments will likely be due as soon as the FCC resumes operations.

(Next pages: What changes will most modernize the eRate?)

Laura Ascione

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