FCC announces Children’s Agenda for broadband

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted ways the new National Broadband Plan will effect children and families.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted ways the new National Broadband Plan will affect children and families.

Digital access, literacy, citizenship, and safety are the four key areas of focus in the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to bring broadband access to all children.

Broadband internet access should be available to 100 percent of American children, but parents should be aware of the possible challenges they will face by the increased amount of time their children might spend online, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a March 12 speech.

Genachowski announced the creation of the FCC’s “Children’s Agenda for Digital Opportunity,” which he said will build on the four pillars of digital access, digital literacy, digital citizenship, and digital safety. The Children’s Agenda is part of the National Broadband Plan to be released this week.…Read More

FCC to propose revamping Universal Service Fund

Federal regulators trying to bring high-speed internet connections to all Americans will propose tapping the government program that now subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas, reports the Associated Press. The Federal Communications Commission will include a proposal to revamp the Universal Service Fund (USF) as part of a national broadband plan due to Congress on March 17. Although the proposal itself has been expected for months, the agency’s March 5 announcement offered the first solid details. The FCC said it envisions transforming the USF over the next decade to pay for high-speed internet access instead of the traditional voice services that it currently finances. The proposal would create a Connect America fund inside the Universal Service program to subsidize broadband, and a Mobility Fund to expand the reach of so-called 3G, or third-generation, wireless networks. “It’s time to migrate this 20th-century program,” said Blair Levin, the FCC official overseeing the broadband plan, which was mandated by last year’s stimulus bill. The FCC’s announcement focused only on the traditional high-cost, low-income portion of the USF, which also pays for the e-Rate, a $2.25 billion-a-year program that provides telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries. The FCC’s plan will lay out several options to pay for the proposals it outlined March 5, including one that would require no additional money from Congress and one that would accelerate the construction of broadband networks if Congress approves a one-time injection of $9 billion. Either way, Levin said, the proposals would not increase the annual size of the USF, but instead would take money from subsidies now used for voice services…

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Education goals in National Broadband Plan revealed

Broadband access provides educational opportunities
Broadband access provides countless educational opportunities, FCC officials say.

Upgrading the federal e-Rate program to provide more connectivity to schools and libraries, removing the barriers to online learning so that more students can take advantage, and unlocking the power of data to personalize learning and improve school decision-making are three key recommendations to help education prosper under the National Broadband Plan that will be released next month, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) officials said during a Feb. 18 broadband meeting.

Meanwhile, the FCC took its first step toward changing the e-Rate’s rules to make it a better vehicle for delivering broadband access to all citizens: A Feb. 18 FCC order allows school systems to let members of their community use e-Rate funded infrastructure after school hours for the 2010 program year.

At the agency’s broadband meeting, officials revealed what they called “working recommendations” for the broadband plan in sectors such as education, health care, government, security, and job training.…Read More

Wireless mic frequency change could affect schools

Faculty members might have to use new wireless microphones in lecture halls after a recent FCC ruling.
Instructors might have to use new wireless microphones in lecture halls after a recent FCC ruling.

Schools and colleges that use wireless microphones operating on the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band have until June 12 to change the radio frequency or buy new equipment, according to a Jan. 15 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s decision is part of a larger government effort to clear the 700 MHz band for use by cell phones, digital TV transmissions, and emergency communications. About 25 percent of the country’s wireless microphones will have to be modified or replaced, according to federal projections.

The ruling affects schools, colleges, sports stadiums, churches, theater groups, musicians, and others who rely on wireless microphones to amplify sound. Some schools and colleges using wireless mics to help their instructors or performers be heard more clearly could end up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace the banned equipment.…Read More

Schools weigh in on national broadband plan

School stakeholders have several suggestions for how the e-Rate can be a part of the National Boradband Plan.
School stakeholders have several suggestions for how the e-Rate can be a part of the National Broadband Plan.

To help provide broadband access to more citizens, the Federal Communications Commission should expand the eligible uses of e-Rate discounts to include after-school programs and community centers, many school leaders and education groups say—but only if the $2.25 billion-a-year funding cap also is raised.

The federal stimulus package that Congress passed last year directed the FCC to submit a National Broadband Plan to lawmakers by Feb. 17, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has asked for a one-month extension so the agency can comb through the vast number of public comments it has received over the past year as it has gathered input on how to make universal broadband a reality.

Several dozen of those comments come from education stakeholders, who responded to the FCC’s call for feedback on how it might leverage the e-Rate in its national plan.…Read More

Net-neutrality dispute heads to court

Comcast is challenging the FCC's net-neutrality stance in federal court.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ran into a potential setback Jan. 8 in its push to draft rules that would require internet providers to give equal treatment to all data flowing over their networks.

In hearing a legal dispute between the agency and Comcast Corp., a three-judge federal appeals court panel questioned the commission’s authority to impose so-called “net neutrality” obligations on the nation’s largest cable TV and internet operator. Those rules are intended to prevent broadband providers from abusing their control over the market for high-speed internet access.

A decision that goes against the FCC could undermine its ability to impose such rules on all broadband companies—not just Comcast.…Read More

FCC solicits e-Rate comments

broadbandresizedAs part of its efforts to develop a National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comments about how the e-Rate program can be improved to meet the broadband needs of schools and libraries — and how it might play a role in delivering or stimulating the adoption of broadband service within communities.

In its Public Notice, the FCC asks educators what they believe are the barriers to increasing broadband deployment and usage in their schools. The agency also asks e-Rate applicants what factors they consider when determining their broadband needs.

In figuring how the e-Rate can be used to help deliver broadband service to more people, the FCC asks stakeholders whether they think the rule requiring that discounts apply only to services used for “educational purposes” should be changed, to allow for the use of school broadband facilities by the community at large. If that were to happen, “what practical or operational impact would such a change have?” the agency asks.…Read More